Increasing math achievement in growing classrooms
A 47.5% increase in classroom size
Nationwide, schools are dealing with reduced budgets and increasing class sizes. Nowhere is the situation more challenging than in California, as evidenced by Wendy Funk’s first grade classroom at Penngrove Elementary. In four years, Ms. Funk’s class size has grown by more than 47.5%, from 19 to 28 first grade students.
In large classrooms, one of the biggest challenges for teachers is finding the time to learn students’ individual academic strengths and weaknesses and to address the learning needs of each child. As Ms. Funk described, “My goal as a teacher is to spend as much time as possible with every student. However, one-on-one time is very difficult to fit in—I usually get only a few moments each day to work individually with at-risk students, or I am taking time after school to tutor students in a 1:1 environment.”
Utilize technology to address individual learning needs
“DreamBox helps me maximize my time and effectiveness with students so I can target lessons and practice to student needs.”
— Wendy Funk, First Grade Teacher, Penngrove Elementary
Ms. Funk selected DreamBox Learning Math as an adaptive learning program to respond to each student’s learning needs. “Students need immediate feedback, and that is almost impossible with a 1:28 teacher-to-student ratio. DreamBox scaffolds instruction in each lesson and provides students with immediate response and assistance. The best part is that DreamBox not only provides skill practice but it is skill building.” The addition of DreamBox to her classroom also allows Ms. Funk to work with smaller differentiated groups. “DreamBox helps me maximize my time and effectiveness with students so I can target lessons and practice to student needs.”
Daily classroom math rotation
With 10 computers in her classroom, Ms. Funk set up a classroom rotation schedule where students work on DreamBox for 20 minutes at a time during an 80-minute math block. For the first 20 minutes, her students with the lowest math proficiency work on DreamBox in order to build foundational math understanding while the rest of the students work on fluency during calendar time.
Then the whole class comes together for the math lesson introduction, and students complete practice problems with their learning partners using manipulatives during this second 20-minute period. During the third 20 minutes, Ms. Funk circulates to support the low and mid-level students as they work independently to complete the math activity, and the high performers go to DreamBox for enrichment based on their established skill level within the system.
Finally, in the last 20 minutes, the mid level students visit the computers while Ms. Funk makes sure the higher level students are on the right track for completing their work independently. Then she can work with the lowest performers in small groups for more personalized practice.
A year’s worth of growth in six months
With students learning on DreamBox for 100 minutes per week, Ms. Funk credits the program with helping her students increase their math achievement scores, as measured by the STAR Math Enterprise™ assessment, by one grade equivalent in six months, moving from an average grade equivalent score of 1.3 to 2.3. Students in Ms. Funk’s class also increased their STAR Math percentile rank, a norm-referenced score that provides a measure of a student’s math ability compared to other students in the same grade nationally, from the 46th percentile to the 72nd percentile, an increase of 26 percentile points. “I’ve seen marked improvement in basic skills and familiarity with concepts and how they relate to my lessons each day. With DreamBox, students are learning new math concepts, not just practicing what they already know.” Additionally, Ms. Funk has found that her students, having grown up with technology, respond positively to online learning programs where they are able to direct their own learning, lowering the number of behavioral issues in class. She notes, “DreamBox provides students the 1:1 support they need. It’s like having a teaching partner in my classroom. I don’t know what I would do without it.”