Closing the Digital Divide and Building Math Skills through Blended Learning Pilot

YES Prep is excited to pilot a blended learning model in Math Lab, a class for middle school students who were identified as currently needing additional support to access their on-grade-level math courses. Blended learning classes combine internet and digital media technology with more traditional teaching methods. Daily, students in Math Lab log onto dedicated laptops and access ST Math, a program developed to boost math skills through animated representations of mathematical concepts. The program gives visual cues to teachers, so that teachers can target individuals or small groups that are struggling to solve puzzles.


At the beginning of the year, students take a diagnostic, and the program creates an individualized learning pathway for each student. For example, if students do well on decimals in the diagnostic, they’ll be able to skip that portion of the curriculum. Throughout the year, students learn new concepts by completing over 120 games and 4,000 puzzles at their own pace. Their goal for each puzzle is to get JiJi, the penguin, across the screen.

If students get stuck, the outside of their screen turns orange. This signals to the teacher that the student faced a hurdle that he/she could not overcome without teacher intervention. If the screen border is red, the student is signaling that they have a question. As teachers circulate, they can also monitor how many JiJi lives the student has left. If a student has less lives, teachers know that the student has made mistakes. Dots on the student’s toolbar indicate that the student has attempted the same level many times and the teacher knows that he/she may need to step in. Teachers can also use Teacher Mode to replay the student’s actions and encourage the student to analyze where he/she went wrong.

“I tend to pinpoint tricky levels that are stumping kids. For example, if there’s a group that is all working on division, I might pull them to my front table and work with them or encourage them to teach one another,” said Laura Myers, math Content Specialist.

ST Math also produces reports, which show students’ progress in the curriculum and measure growth.

“I pull reports at the end of each day to determine how to best prepare for the next day,” said Myers. “There are bubbles next to a student’s name, which indicate that a student is currently struggling with a given concept. That tells me I need to target that student tomorrow.  I also monitor pre-quiz and post-quiz data to celebrate growth or to identify who may need to revisit specific concepts to deepen understanding.”

YES Prep pilots such as ST Math and Eisenhower’s 1:1 are not only intended to improve academic outcomes, but they also can help to close the digital divide, or the socioeconomic gap between those who have regular access to technology and those who do not.

“When we think about piloting new technology, it’s not just about whether something will help instruction. It has also become a social equity issue for our kids as they matriculate to college. Do they have the skills to be a knowledge worker in our society?” said Richard Charlesworth, YES Prep’s Vice President of Analytics and Technology.


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