the road to “congratulations”

Just like every well-prepared educator pre-reads the picture books he uses for read alouds, I consider it my mission to review numeracy software before my students are set to the task of skip counting by 5s, adding 3 digit numbers or dividing fractions. I will admit, in the comfort of this forum, that I have been in awe of a math program on a PC and quickly (think:brilliantly) tried to share it on an interactive white board, only to find that the software was not compatible, in front of 25 nine year olds, 12 minutes before March Break began, just after the red dye party~ the healthy snacks memo sitting on my desk covered in cupcake icing. Lesson learned.

A child can get a wow, fantastic, congratulations, you did it message simply by clicking on all of the cards in the memory game or choosing all of the annoying yellow ducks with numbers until the correct one is picked; sound off please! In other cases a little more work is involved, the question changes or the numbers are different but the child can still demonstrate an understanding of how to use technology without demonstrating an understanding of the concept. I don’t want to name programs because the programs I use are good for a variety of purposes and skill levels. You probably have some in mind.

“Mastery” in math doesn’t seem difficult to attain through many software programs. Some of the programs that track progress will show you that a child can reach mastery level in approximately 20 questions. My experience is that these problems are skill-based and don’t allow for collaboration or higher order thinking.

How are you using math software to support learning? Have you discovered a program that encourages the use of the skills our students will need in the future?

Level Up,
(But only if you’ve earned it)



  1. Aviva (@avivaloca)

    March 14, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    This is a very interesting post, Derek! I kind of struggle with many math programs/games because of what you’ve shared here. I also find that they’re really based on the “knowledge” piece without looking at “thinking.” Recently what I’ve done is have students use manipulatives and share thinking on whiteboards, iPads, or notebooks when playing online math games. This helps the students get beyond just “clicking” for the right answer to explaining this answer. Then they take photographs of their “thinking work” and use PicCollage to further explain it. They could use iMovie in the same way. I wonder if in order to get the most out of math games, we actually have to move beyond the game. What do you think?


    • I completely agree with you Aviva! The next step for educators is to use technology to encourage students share and explain their thinking. If the software doesn’t allow for it then we need to seek out programs that will allow students at various levels to share their thinking. As always, I appreciate your insight. You make me think.

      • I like to use games to enrich the students’ math fact fluency. The games are engaging so the students want to play them, then the hope is that the repetitive nature of these games will enhance their abilities to quickly recall facts. The benefit to this is when we are doing higher level thinking work/problem solving, they don’t get hung up on recollection of facts, and can think more about how to solve the problem or explain their thinking.

        Aviva’s method of taking screenshots and explaining the thinking is also a wonderful use of those “math fact mastery” kind of games. I find that many students lack the ability (or the motivation) to explain their thinking. Using a game as an impetus can be the motivator that works.

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