STEM Action Center-Funded Math Digital Learning Software Increases Student Proficiency

Pete CodellaNews

Students across the state using math digital learning programs available through Utah STEM Action Center grants had a greater level of success on the 2016 SAGE assessment than similar students without access to the learning tools.

The STEM Action Center worked with school district administrators and teachers, along with product partners, to deploy nine math digital learning software programs across the state. Third party evaluation data indicated that three of the most widely-used products generated statistically significant results. Students using these three products were 1.2 to 3.1 times more likely to reach grade level proficiency on the SAGE test.

“The success of this grant program is due to the hard work and commitment of Utah teachers and administrators,” said Dr. Tamara Goetz, executive director of the Utah STEM Action Center. “They are committed to integrating these supplemental programs into their classrooms to help students achieve greater success in math, which is a fundamental skill. The Utah Legislature had a clear vision when they created our center in 2013, and it’s rewarding to see that vision come to fruition.”

The outcomes closely follow the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP)—the gold standard in national scoring. The results for the 2015-16 school year indicate that Utah students are leading out in STEM subject proficiency. Utah eighth-graders scored highest in the country on the norm-referenced standardized science test, and fourth graders ranked no. 8 in math after raising their scores by six points.

The Math Digital Learning Grant, the STEM Action Center’s first program, was designed to research and deploy math digital learning tools into Utah classrooms to improve math learning. As the program enters its third full year of implementation, more than 168,000 students, or 27 percent of Utah’s student population, now have access to the K-12 technology math tools. The digital learning tools are intended to be integrated into daily classroom math instruction. The tools target knowledge gaps, adapt lessons and provide real-time feedback, ultimately creating a more personalized math learning experience.

Bill McKay, head of the math department at Centerville Junior High School, which uses STEM-funded math digital learning software, says their school has seen their ninth grade math scores move from 52 percent to 73 percent and that whole math department’s proficiency scores move from 55 percent to 63 percent since last year.

“As a department, we attribute a large part of this increase to student’s ability to receive immediate feedback and have additional attempts to work through problems,” McKay said. “In addition, as educators we are able to quickly pull reports with a few mouse clicks and identify areas students are having difficulty with for additional instruction in order for them to become proficient. We appreciate the work the STEM Action Center does at the state level in pulling data and identifying approaches and providing instruments that work. Their pursuit in acquiring resources at the state level really does make a difference in enhancing our instruction.”