We have been looking for a way to engage students in improving their numeracy skills, as well as track their progress so we can target areas of need for each student. Before I continue I want to clarify something, I do not support a ‘drill kill’ mentality when it comes to math instruction. I’m all about giving students experiences with real-world problems that allow them to authentically engage in the exploration of mathematics. With that said, there is a need for students to have automacy with their math facts in order to accomplish the high-order problem solving.
Task: Have students practice their math facts and problem solving. As a bonus for the teacher this would include an easy way to keep records and track student progress.
Traditionally this would probably include timed math fact tests that are graded and recorded on a spreadsheet of some sort. Boy do I remember doing those with my third and fourth grade students, timed 1 minute tests in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. (Actually I remember doing those when I was in fourth grade… quite a few years ago and it was maybe the worse part of my day)
Task digitalized: There are certainly math software titles out there that probably do just this, my goal was to not only have a way to engage the students, but I wanted it to be available online so that the data could be saved outside our servers and accessed from any Internet enabled device. Enter Sumdog. Sumdog is an website where teachers can register for free and set up their school, classes and add students. From there they can set up specific challenges or competitions for their students to complete. You can also set whether they play the games with just other students in their class or around the world. There are ten games to choose from, including bunny hop, alien invaders, street racer, talent show, and touchdown. Each game allows you to choose a level, topic, and who you want to play (world, class, computer). Although the game graphics are not super advanced they are fast paced and should be engaging for most students. (Definitely better than the paper/pencil timed tests) Another good thing to note here is that Sumdog is a fairly new site and is growing, so I expect to see even bigger and better things from them in the future. (follow @sumdog for updates)
Now, I said free to set up and have students use. The fee comes in if you want the second part of the task (which I think is pretty important). If you want to view student results and track their progress you will need to purchase a subscription. The good thing is that it is only $160.00 a year for each school, with quotes given for a school district subscription.
View an Introduction of Sumdog.
Check out the features and compare the difference between free account and subscription (only $160/school a year).
IXL Math is a great site that has a free one month subscription so you can check it out. It has more features and activities, but comes at a price. ($199/class a year, or they also have a school subscription you can get a quote for) You can find features and pricing here.
Got other tool ideas for this task? Please share them here…