The Johnson County School District is using a new computer-based curriculum to supplement students’ learning and hopefully get them excited about math.
“I think, overall, the district was kind of disappointed with our WY-TOPP (Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress) scores in math this year,” said Laurie Graves, principal of Meadowlark Elementary School. “We thought it was time to add some new tools to the box and see if those tools can provide a better understanding of math concepts.”
The district’s students were ranked below the state average of advanced and proficient students in five grades including third through sixth.
The district’s new curriculum is called IXL Math. It’s an online math program that has been in place in the district since late November, Graves said. The program is being used by K-2 students in Buffalo and K-8 students in Kaycee. Teachers at Cloud Peak Elementary School, Clear Creek Middle School and Buffalo High School have also expressed interest in piloting the program, Graves said. The program was recommended by Superintendent Jim Wagner, who had success with the program in other school districts he worked in.
IXL is directly compatible with the district’s current Eureka Math curriculum, which spans from kindergarten math to geometry and Algebra I and II. The IXL curriculum serves as a supplement to Eureka but is not intended to be used by itself, Graves said.
“We’re really happy with Eureka, and we think it provides our students with everything they need to know,” Graves said. “IXL just reinforces those skills and gives kids more opportunities to practice.”
For each unit in Eureka, IXL provides questions that students can answer to test their skills. For example, students learning about basic addition can hop online to see if they can identify which picture illustrates the equation 2+2. Most questions are multiple choice, and the program explains why an answer is wrong if a child answers incorrectly.
“The program doesn’t just say you missed the problem,” Graves said. “It explains in detail what you did wrong and then gives you the opportunity to continue practicing those skills.”
Students can spend anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours a week working on the curriculum in the classroom, depending on the teacher and the age of the students, Graves said. In addition, students are being encouraged to log in from home and practice their math skills in their free time.
“We are encouraging exploration outside of the classroom,” Graves said. “Practice makes perfect, and this is a great way to do it. I mean if I personally had a choice between doing a worksheet and a more interactive computer program, I think that IXL would be the obvious choice.”
In addition to providing a fresh way to learn math concepts, IXL has other advantages, Graves said. One is that it will help students become familiar with online testing.
“The interface for IXL is actually very similar to the one that students use in the WY-TOPPS (the statewide assessment held every spring),” Graves said. “Our hope is that when our students take their summative assessment next spring, they will be more comfortable with this kind of testing and not be intimidated by it.”
Graves said it will be hard to tell if IXL is working until closer to the end of the school year, but she is hopeful that the district will see some results.
“We’re just excited to see if it is going to make a difference for kids and if it will provide them with a better understanding of math concepts,” Graves said. “We’re certainly hopeful that it will do just that.”