The MIND Research Institute, an Irvine, California based nonprofit, has developed an exciting tool for classrooms called ST Math. ST Math runs on tablets and uses visual puzzles to teach concepts such as fractions and number lines to elementary school kids. The organization’s work might quell some of the heated debates being raged about technology’s role in the classroom.

The Jack L. Weaver Elementary School in Los Alamitos, California decided to try out the earliest version of the ST Math software 16 years ago, when the interface was still on traditional desktop computers. ST Math is now a cornerstone of the school’s curriculum, with two 35-minute ST Math sessions per week in the classroom, as well as homework assignments and the option for students to use the software in their free time. This is combined with traditional math instruction and cognitively guided instruction, creating a blend of traditional teaching techniques with computer-generated ones.

Dyslexic Neuroscientist Develops App that Helps Improve Math Skills

Image source: TakePart

 

Within three years of adopting the ST Math software, the school was outperforming every school in the district in math. The student body swelled and required a waiting list to get in. This year, 98% of Weaver students tested proficient or advanced in mathematics. Furthermore, the school’s Academic Performance Index, California’s measure of how well a school is doing, was the highest in Orange County.

Given these results, it is encouraging that technology has begun to play a bigger role in traditional education. As of last year, there were 10 million iPads in American schools. Of course, many still have their doubts about children learning by staring at a screen. There are additional concerns such as the privacy of student data. Additionally, a 2012 report by the educational nonprofit, Project Tomorrow, showed that only 17% of teachers believed technology helped explore their ideas deeply and 26% thought it boosted problem solving. Despite this, teachers in training are much more enthusiastic about using technology as a learning tool.

Those in favor of technology in classrooms like how students can assess progress while they work, which serves as an embedded assessment. It provides teachers with real-time reports that let them know which students need more help.

Research into educational technology is still in its infancy, but companies are moving at the speed of business. When evaluating a technology to be used in the classroom, it is imperative to ensure that the software appreciates the stakes in education. MIND Research Institute seems to be one organization that does.

In fact, the developer of ST Math, Matthew Peterson, is dyslexic himself. Although academically frustrated as a child, Peterson was enthralled with visual puzzles that required logic and special reasoning rather than language skills. He decided to study the brain and problem solving, which eventually led him to build software to teach children with dyslexia without using language. Thus, the MIND Research Institute and ST Math came to be.

In 2013, an independent evaluation by the research firm WestEd found that ST Math improves test scores two to three times faster than non-ST Math curricula. Today, 630,000 students are using the software in 2,050 elementary schools throughout the United States. Peterson wants to increase this even more to ensure not only that every child succeeds in math, but also that they love it.

To read more about this exciting software, visit TakePart as well as MIND's site here.