Elephant Learning is Like Having a Math Coach in Your Classroom
Today’s classrooms offer some unique challenges for teachers, particularly in mathematics. Our classes could be multi-grade, but they are undoubtedly multi-level and multi-ability, particularly when it comes to math. A growing number of students in our classrooms are identified as having special learning needs that require interventions. Individualized instruction, though, is almost impossible in a classroom of thirty or more students. While students may quickly grasp rote memorization in such a setting, they can fail to understand the underlying math concepts. As a result, as students progress through elementary school, they struggle even more, which often results in negative behaviors such as acting out or tuning out.
Teachers struggle with math too. Many of us, particularly those of us teaching in elementary schools, don’t have a background in mathematics, and teacher training is often lacking in this critical subject. Math anxiety is a very real problem for some teachers, but also many of our students and parents. And even though we know parental engagement is key to a child’s success in school, we often struggle to get parents involved.
Elephant Learning can help you overcome many of these challenges. More importantly, the app can help get all of your students to where they need to be. We guarantee that students will learn one year of mathematics in just three months by using the app only thirty minutes per week.
The Multi-Level Classroom
As teachers, you can be teaching students at a variety of different levels. Even within specific strands, your students’ understanding can vary widely. Elephant Learning accommodates these differences by embracing the idea that not everyone in your classroom learns at the same pace. Some may immediately grasp a math concept, but many may not. Then we’re faced with either slowing learning down for everyone to bring the strugglers back up to speed or to forge ahead and to risk leaving some behind. Because Elephant Learning is individualized and allows teachers and parents to set specific learning pathways for each student, we eliminate that risk.
If your class is about to tackle multiplication, but some students have not yet mastered addition, you can assign them that specific concept. You can also create cohorts of students within your classroom and assign topics to them through the cohort. By allowing quick learners to get ahead, and slower learners the time to master a specific concept, Elephant Learning ensures your students are exactly where they need to be. It will also quickly bring students up to where you need them to be. On average, children in our system learn 1.5 years of math in about ten weeks.
Very few elementary classroom teachers have a background in mathematics. Even for many who do, teaching math has changed significantly in recent years. This doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent and can’t do it. It simply means they need some help. Common Core provides a framework, but without access to adequate teacher training, it can be a challenge for teachers without a mathematical background to implement. Elephant Learning integrates the pedagogical shifts that have occurred with the implementation of common core and many new state standards such as the emphasis on coherence, fluency, deep understanding, and application rather than simple memorization.
Elephant Learning has built-in teacher training. In addition to assisting with the delivery, we help with assessment and placement through our test out mode feature. The app can help you assess exactly where each student is in their learning and what additional knowledge they require to move forward. The ability to drill down to the exact questions your student can’t answer can help you quickly identify where, why, and how a barrier to their understanding is occurring. Finally, we offer supplemental learning ideas that you can implement outside the app in your classroom.
Studies suggest that approximately 93% of adult Americans suffer from some level of math anxiety, and 17% suffer from a high level of math anxiety. For students, this can lead to behavioral issues in the classroom or students tuning out. It’s a challenge for classroom teachers to address because the root of math anxiety, as well as the way it manifests itself, is different for each student. Because Elephant Learning is individualized, and through the placement exam, it starts every child where they need to start and can find some initial success, math anxiety can be alleviated.
Teachers are not immune. Many elementary teachers suffer from some level of math anxiety, and this translates into a lack of confidence in teaching mathematics. Elephant Learning’s ease of implementation and robust support mechanisms, both within the app and through our support desk, can alleviate much of this anxiety. And the success your students have through their use of the app can help make your math program a success.
Elephant Learning delivers concept-based instruction through a series of puzzles. They are not memorization based. These activities come from early age education experts and are proven to teach the concepts. The key to concept-based learning is providing the right activity to build upon the knowledge already learned. Just like when teachers show students colored objects to teach them colors, Elephant Learning activities exhibit mathematical concepts through having the child determine how to solve the puzzle and then label the concept they used.
This gamification of mathematics engages students at all levels, from those who struggle to those who quickly get it and need to reach ahead. It has also proven to engage students diagnosed with behavioral, emotional, or social challenges such as ADHD, ADD, sensory processing issues, and anxiety.
We have chosen to implement Elephant Learning as a parent purchased app rather than a school or classroom purchased app. The logic behind this is to help you engage your parents in their child’s learning. We all know that students whose parents are involved in their education are far more successful. The approach works. As a teacher, you are provided with a free version of the app and can then invite your parents to purchase the app for their child. We do offer scholarships that can significantly reduce costs for those of you working in low-income neighborhoods.
Initial Student Placement
Elephant Learning’s placement exam uses a test out mode approach. We assign subjects and ask the most challenging questions from each subject. If the child answers all questions correctly, we open up new subjects also in test out mode. If they answer incorrectly or skip a question, we assign that subject.
Our assessments are the actual puzzles attached to each concept, so your students will not realize they are being assessed. This alleviates stress and ensures accuracy. When the placement is complete, the child is automatically switched to the course work for that level, and they will not know the difference.
We prefer to start students at a level below where they actually are. The idea is to allow them to find some success with the program and in mathematics and to avoid having them fail back to a previous level. As a teacher, you can start the students where you think they need to start. However, it is also possible to set the assessments by the age of the child.
We all know that students occasionally forget or lose previously mastered concepts and skills. As the teacher, you also can easily move a child back to a previous assessment using drag and drop within the teacher portal. Any subject that is currently in test out mode for the student will have a star beside it, so you will know exactly what concepts each student is working on.
Reports and Data
Is one of your students stagnating in a particular area? Are they not moving forward? Elephant Learning can help you figure out why. Within the teacher portal, you can see at a glance how your entire class is performing. You can also drill down to individual student-level data.
We all know how critical data has become in our classroom. It informs how we teach and interact with students, parents, and even supervisors. Elephant Learning provides you with a wealth of easily accessible, easily understood data. The teacher portal opens a quadrant style graphic that gives you a quick overview of how much time each child is spending on the app, and where they are in terms of their math understanding measured in Elephant Years.
Elephant Learning Age
The Elephant Age is your student’s real math age. Meaning that if they’re performing at a first-grade level, they’d be showing up as a six-year-old or higher in Elephant Learning Years. We looked at states’ standards and Common Core and ensured our milestones and our system connected to the bullet points on the curriculum. This was a way for us to quickly make it a one-number metric without having it be connected to a specific grade level because standards vary from grade to grade or from district to district.
Reports and data can be shared between parents and teachers, engaging all parties in the students’ success.
In the teacher portal, you can drill down even further to see how each student is performing. You can see which types of questions they are answering correctly and which they are failing consistently. There is a TRY button beside each question that allows you to go in and try it yourself. This is especially useful in establishing where a child is going wrong.
Look at the question with the student and ask them why they chose the answer they did. You’ll get critical insight. The answer might reveal the lack of a specific skill or a problem related to something as simple as a misunderstanding related to language. For example, students may be getting a number line question to twenty but not past forty. If you sit down and draw it out for them through 50, they’ll see it. It goes on forever. Suddenly they will have connected the dots. That’s a great moment for the teacher. You can also refer to questions in the app, during classroom lessons, to help cement students’ understanding.
Creating Cohorts within Classrooms
As a teacher, you can create folders or cohorts of students at specific levels. This way, you have an easy tool as a teacher not only to be able to modify some students but also to look at those students who are below grade level as a separate cohort and understand them better.
The teacher is always in control of student learning. At any time, you can pause a student or group of students, who seem to be struggling with a particular concept, or you can put them in test out mode if the subject has become too easy and they no longer require all of the course work. In the latter, they will quickly test out of that subject and move on to the next.
Personalizing Elephant Learning
To maximize student engagement, Elephant Learning allows students to personalize the app. They can choose from dozens of animal avatars to represent them. Dozens of engaging voices, with accents ranging from Australian to Indian, read the questions to students. If a child has trouble understanding a specific accent, it can be turned off for that child within the system.
And if the system mispronounces a child’s name, they can go in and change that pronunciation by providing a phonetic spelling of their name in settings and testing it out to see how the voices pronounce it.
Timing is Everything
Finally, a word about timing and usage: there is such a thing as too much, even for Elephant Learning. It’s kind of like the present a child opens and plays with continually for a day and then never looks at again. They’ve burned themselves out.
We set the timer by default to twenty minutes. As a teacher, you can lower or raise the time according to the attention span of your particular student or students. Older students or students operating at more advanced levels may benefit from thirty-minute intervals.
What we have found at Elephant Learning is that twenty minutes is optimal, and this can be ten minutes each at home and school. For example, whether it is going to the gym or learning to play the piano or the violin, if you could dedicate ten minutes per day to anything over three months, you’re going to pick up quite a bit. And that goes for math as well.
The other plus of the twenty-minute interval is that students who want to play longer but can’t, are going to be that much more eager to play against the next day. As their teacher, this, too, can work in your favor.