Game-based motivating math instruction
Bolstering achievement for early elementary learners
Theodore Roosevelt Elementary in Houston has a long history of academic success, even when faced with what appear to be demographic challenges: 90 percent of their students are at poverty level and 40 percent are English Language Learners (ELL). The school is also home to a Vanguard magnet program for gifted and talented learners that enriches the education of those students through project-based learning.
When STAAR scores took a sudden and dramatic downturn among their third grade students last year, the school’s leadership, including principal Yolanda Rodriguez and instructional specialist Rodolfo Ramos, realized they needed a new approach. One that—in the face of diverse abilities and changing state standards—differentiated instruction for their early primary students.
Instruction for evolving standards
DreamBox is a leader in differentiated math instruction. Because of the game-based and visual environment, the solution is particularly effective in diverse, multilingual implementations such as Roosevelt.
“We also wanted something that supported our evolving TEKS state standards and built early numeracy and fluency skills,” said Rodriguez. The system also needed to be highly motivating, as at-risk students can quickly lose their enthusiasm when they are faced with challenges. With the differentiated approach featured by DreamBox, students remain challenged consistently and effectively.
Addressing early numeracy for diverse learners
“Teachers know that when their students are working independently, they are engaged in authentic learning that is rigorous and relevant.”
— Rodolfo Ramos, Instructional Specialist
To address early primary numeracy skills, DreamBox is used in kindergarten, first, and second grade at Roosevelt. The primary usage comes from classroom workstations during Response to Intervention (RtI) time, with the target being 30 minutes of usage for each student every week. Some teachers also assign lessons as homework for students who can access DreamBox at home. Some classrooms offer DreamBox on the iPad™ as a reward for positive behavior. “It helps to gauge mastery of math skills and identify areas that need to be retaught. It also identifies students with conceptual gaps,” reported Rodriguez. Our bilingual classes are using DreamBox especially consistently. Because it’s so visually rich, it keeps ELL students highly engaged and teachers particularly like how it spirals instruction for students.”
Perhaps the largest change for Roosevelt teachers has been how DreamBox has improved their instruction. “When the kids are online with DreamBox, the teachers can see exactly what they are working on, so they can redirect or reinforce their learning. It lets the teacher be a facilitator because DreamBox is personalizing each child’s learning,” said Ramos. “Teachers know that when their students are working independently, they are engaged in authentic learning that is rigorous and relevant.”
Laying the groundwork for long-term success
Even though Roosevelt’s implementation is new, and the students being targeted are not subject to statewide testing, the staff is already starting to see results. “Our K–2 students just took a common district assessment aligned with the curriculum maps. We noticed beneficial correlations between the kids who had used DreamBox consistently and those who hadn’t. It was definitely beneficial to those students that used the program,” Rodriguez asserted.
Reflective of a school that knows how to achieve student success in a variety of learners, Roosevelt has a long-term plan when it comes to DreamBox. This year’s second graders will have a more solid foundation in early numeracy and fluency skills, and that should reflect in their achievement as third graders. By the time this year’s kindergarteners are in third grade, they should be leading a math revolution at Roosevelt.