Thursday, October 13, 2011

Initial Results from MathLand 2.0

I am pleased to post that MathLand 2.0 is extremely successful.

The mastery tests not only force students to learn a skill (as opposed to just finish an assignment and then either avoid the test, dig in their learned helplessness heels while I prod and prompt them to answers, or just scribble out the easily regurgitated answers), but they give students the sense of accomplishment that comes from receiving an assignment, going someplace to do it, completing it independently, and getting the answers correct.  Students may use anything to help them except a person, so they also experience looking back at lessons, using resource materials, and generalizing information to fit the test question.  It's great!

Students are collaborating even more.  With shorter levels and targeted skills, students find it easier to collaborate on levels.  The other day in my 2nd hour Algebra 2 class, two groups spontaneously sprouted: the level 4 group (multiplying polynomials) and the level 5 group (factoring and dividing polynomials).  When everyone is working on the same objective, study groups are productive and beneficial to all involved.

Students are recognizing the effectiveness of MathLand.  The other day one of my students asked me if I invented MathLand.  Yes I did.  You are a genius, she said.  This is the only way I could learn math.  Wow, that is amazing.  It would be amazing for any teacher to get such a spontaneous, unsolicited critique of their methods, but this is from a girl who first came to my room telling me she couldn't do math at all.  I mean, that's the first thing she ever said to me, before telling me her name, or asking where to sit, she told me she couldn't learn math.  She's also emotionally impaired, in a day treatment setting for special education students, and functioning well below her grade level on individual achievement tests, and she's multiplying polynomials, by herself, with the help of manipulatives, clear instructions, and peer support.

I did not have time to upgrade my Geometry levels to 2.0 over the summer, so it's interesting to see the contrast between how my Algebra 1 and 2 classes are running versus Geometry.  The Geometry kids are still doing MathLand 1.0 and are finding it as motivating as always, but they lack the mastery, they lack the ability to work together on just the one skill (although they are still doing a great job helping people who are behind them in the levels), and they never know exactly what the point of the activity is.  As a teacher/facilitator, I also notice that I am providing way more help/instruction during my Geometry hours.  That is because MathLand 2.0 provides more supports for the kids and allows them to better help themselves and each other, and be more independent.

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