Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Looking for the magic bullet

Today I was asked for my opinion on ST Math. I have heard this type of question many times before. It goes something like this...

"I have heard that ST Math improves student test scores. What is your opinion of XXXXX Elementary School asking the PTA to fund the annual subscription?"

Here is my response today...
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Hey there... 
I know ST Math (Ji Ji Math) pretty well. I've observed it in action and have been asked numerous times to give my opinion about it. In short, it costs a lot of money for minimal (if any) gains. Nearly all of the studies showing a benefit to students involved low-income students only. It is never made clear whether the students benefitted from ST Math specifically, or if students merely improved because ST Math provided "extra math time" and ANY extra math time would have created the same benefits. 
It is pretty easy to find evidence on both sides of the ST Math question...
Has no effect: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260638069_A_Randomized_Trial_of_an_Elementary_School_Mathematics_Software_Intervention_Spatial-Temporal_ST_Math 
Has an effect:https://www.edsurge.com/news/arizona-students-catch-up-fast-with-st-math 
What worries me about schools that are considering ST Math is that there is a belief that ST Math will improve student results WITHOUT teachers having to change their instructional strategies. I've observed teachers in computer lab time using ST Math as a glorified babysitter.  
The NUMBER 1 thing that improves mathematics achievement is improving the quality of the math instruction in the classroom. ST Math is low on the list. 
My suggestion: Use the money to pay for PD that will improve the teaching that goes on in the classroom. Alternatively, the annual cost of ST Math could purchase 50 - 100 Chromebooks each year. 
Sorry dude. ST Math is not the magic bullet. What we need is just good teaching.
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When investigating ST Math, schools are attempting to outsource the instruction to a computer, while completely ignoring that the teacher's instructional strategies are far more important than ANY software. Unfortunately, all the money is spent purchasing the site license allowing no money left over to improve the quality of classroom instruction.

Please...let's stop looking for a magic bullet. Instead, let's focus on using our mathematics instructional coaches effectively to improve classroom instruction.

It is hard work, but much better than expending our time and energy looking for a magic bullet.

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