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Adaptive online math program helps Maryland district transition to Common Core math standards

Thousands of Howard County elementary school students use DreamBox Learning Math as part of curriculum transition

As districts across the country adopt the Common Core math standards, many district math coordinators are looking for effective tools to help their students transition to the new curriculum.

Last year, Maryland’s Howard County School District began a phased transition to the Common Core mathematics curriculum in its elementary schools. The district, which serves over 25,000 elementary students across 40 schools, began preparing for the transition in 2009. As part of the transition plan, Howard County administrators looked for a tool that would complement the Common Core’s emphasis on developing a rich conceptual understanding of math and help support their teachers throughout the transition process. Finding the right product proved to be challenging.

“Before Common Core came into the picture, we had been exploring options for math software for a long time, but for the most part the available resources were not much more than glorified flashcards,” explains John SanGiovanni, instructional facilitator in elementary mathematics for the district. “Most of the products out there are just quick recall activities that are packaged in a game format; they aren’t focused on developing deep understanding.”

The interactive and adaptive math software from DreamBox Learning stood apart from other options on the market because of its emphasis on reaching the deep level of mathematical understanding called for by the Common Core. DreamBox’s unique software combines interactive graphical representations of math concepts and engaging lessons with real-time assessment and personalized instruction, all in an adaptive online learning environment. 

“DreamBox stood out as the one product that aligns both with the Common Core and with our vision of good teaching,” says SanGiovanni. “The central idea of the Common Core is that students should not just regurgitate facts or memorize which number is greater than another, but must understand why one number is greater.”

The difference with DreamBox, SanGiovanni adds, is that it helps students actually evaluate and understand mathematics, as opposed to simply “regurgitating information.”

Educators in Howard County use DreamBox in a variety of environments and have found the software to be flexible enough for such a large and diverse district.

“We use it for intervention in some schools, and we also deploy it with pre-K students to give them a head start on their math education,” says SanGiovanni. “We use it before school and after school in small one-to-one settings, as well as in the classroom. That’s one of the best things about DreamBox: it’s flexible enough to be incorporated into many instructional settings in a way that doesn’t intrude, but actually complements instruction.”

Since the introduction of DreamBox, Howard County’s elementary school students have made marked improvement in their mathematics performance. What’s more, they enjoy using the program.

"The short-term data show that students who use DreamBox with fidelity develop a good sense of numbers,” says SanGiovanni. “The feedback from kids, which is important to me, is that they like it. Sometimes we employ software that students think is cool at first, but then they quickly become bored. DreamBox keeps our kids engaged long-term.”

As districts across the nation make the shift to the Common Core math standards, SanGiovanni recommends that administrators make a clear plan for the transition and consider implementing math software that supports the new standards. “I recommend DreamBox Learning, because it aligns so well with the goals set out in the Common Core.“

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