Representatives from First In Math were excited to be part of the Prince Georges County Public School's 2nd Annual Teaching and Learning Conference in October. The focus of the 2015 event was ‘Literacy Across the Content Areas.’
PGCPS educators participate in an interactive First In Math professional development session.
The conferences brought together more than 9,000 principals, assistant principals, teachers, teaching staff, counselors, and administrators for a day of learning and engaging. Altogether, 15 different PGCPS schools offered sessions covering a variety of content areas.
First In Math Implementation Specialists Shawn Collier and Melissa Walsh, along with FIM Coordinator Nancy Kane, presented five separate First In Math sessions in three locations: Friendly HS, Laurel HS and Greenbelt MS. “It was an excellent opportunity to share implementation strategies and ideas and to receive feedback from teachers who are working daily with students,” says Walsh.
“I enjoyed teaming up with Sharone Anderson Davis at Williams Elementary, Regina Walters at Templeton Elementary, and Marcia Frank-Sun, Instructional Lead Teacher at Cherokee Lane Elementary in Adelphi,” says Kane. “Other Lead Teachers—Jessica Schiery, Judy Cameron, Monica Cobble and Sharise Hazel—conducted their own presentation. It was a great collaborative effort by both the First In Math Implementation Team and PGCPS.”
“I have heard nothing but rave reviews of the sessions,” reports Judith Russ, Supervisor of PGCPS Department of Elementary Mathematics.
Frank-Sun, who is also the Southern Regional Representative for the Maryland Council of Teachers of Mathematics, agrees. “It went really well, participants seemed to truly enjoy the sessions and were able to take away a lot of new information. And we enjoyed working with Nancy.”
Kane was equally impressed with the Maryland event. “As we were one of the sessions that included a technology component, it was really nice that the sessions were BYOD—Bring Your Own Device,” explains Kane, who says that attendees were asked to bring their own fully-charged laptop or tablet.
OOTY, INDIA—Inventor Robert Sun, creator of the award-winning First In Math® online program, will travel to India to address school leaders at the 76th annual Indian Public Schools (IPSC) Conclave to be held December 2-3, 2015, at The Lawrence School, one of the premier residential schools in the country.
The Lawrence School in Ooty—established in 1858, stands majestically on a campus spanning 750 acres.
The IPSC is a prestigious group of 78 of the top-ranked residential schools in India. These schools have a rich history spanning more than 150 years. “The Conclave is attended by enlightened School Leaders and insightful thinkers who view education as a means of social ascension,” according to Sangita Chima, Headmistress of The Lawrence School.
The core theme of the Conclave is thought provoking and intellectually stimulating—The Alchemy of Learning. Solution-based keynote addresses and learning workshops seek to challenge the audience to think boldly and freely in new ways, focusing on creating sustainable 21st century learning environments.
Sun will speak in the morning, then lead the afternoon Learning Workshop on the first day of the Conclave. During the remainder of his trip, Sun’s will focus his attention on helping India’s government schools through a unique mathematics initiative.
“With the enactment of The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, there has been a significant increase in the enrollment of children in government-run schools,” explains First In Math®India Pvt. Ltd. CEO Monica Patel. “Many of these students are first-generation learners, and coupled with the fact that they may come from impoverished socio-economic backgrounds, their influx presents unique challenges for an education system tasked with adequately supporting the diverse learning needs of all children.”
Chima, a longtime champion of math education, agrees, and believes that without some type of intervention, an achievement gap may begin to form between private and government schools. In an attempt to address this issue, Sun has offered an opportunity for private institutions such as The Lawrence School to ‘adopt’ local government schools and initiate a First in Math® project—run by students—at no cost to either school.
“My vision is to scale this initiative across all private schools, to allow them to help as many government schools as possible,” explains Sun, who says that he is committed to the idea that ‘EVERY Child is First In Math’ and that children have the fundamental right to a quality math education. “All students should have powerful, engaging and fascinating experiences in learning. At that wonderful point, there is no telling how far they can go.”
Samuel Prabhakar, Headmaster of the Corporation School of Ooty, along with his math teachers, have excitedly embraced Sun’s offer. The students of The Lawrence School have already outlined a dynamic plan, beginning their first session in late November.
BATON ROUGE, LA—First In Math representative Nancy Kane attended the Diocese of Baton Rouge Catholic Educators Gathering at the Baton Rouge River Center in early September, and visited several participating schools located in sugar cane country.
St. Peter Chanel Technology Coordinator Jessica Domangue and a group of fourth-graders.
First In Math received a special invitation from Superintendent Dr. Melanie B. Verges, and the trip allowed Kane to meet many teachers and administrators—including Michael Comeau from Holy Family and Kerry Rogers, assistant principal at Holy Ghost. “I have been working with some of these wonderful folks like Kerry for years, and it was so nice to finally meet them,” explains Kane.
Kane’s first visit was to St. Peter Chanel in Paulina, LA. Paulina is a very tight knit community—many of the students are related and some children’s parents attended the school.
Fifth grade teacher Lindsay Schexnayder and Technology Coordinator Jessica Domangue anchor the program at St. Peter Chanel. “When I got there they were already planning the construction of colorful FIM bulletin boards using our Thermometer graphics (downloadable from the RECOGNITION link on the Team Leader Homepage) and everything is going to look great,” says Kane.
Schexnayder says that she likes to set Goals for the students and was “very excited to hear about First In Math’s new Goals Pages.”
“I was lucky enough to help pass out the FIM User IDs to one of the fourth-grade teams for the first time,” says Kane. “Right away, the students were anxious to get to work after noticing the look of the new player homepage. We talked about their Goals pages, and explained how they each have some control on what the outcome of a year of practice with FIM can do for them. During the session, the Team Goals page was projected on the board so everyone could watch the class’s progress.”
According to Kane, “They are going to have a great award ceremony at the end of the year, celebrating their successes in math.”
Kane also visited St. John’s Primary school to meet with Karen Long and two other third grade classes using the program.
Last but not least, a visit to the top school in the state was also on the agenda—Central Intermediate School (see related story) in the Central Intermediate School District. “Meeting with Linda Crochet-Primeaux, First In Math Anchor, Principal Rhonda Taylor, Assistant Principal Jeremy O’Banion and Sharon Leblanc, Math Interventionist was very inspiring; they are great implementers of the program and are a dedicated team of enthusiastic educators!”
PINE BLUFF, AR—Proud father Brandon Kearney enjoys telling other parents about his children's success—all of them hold a perfect 4.0 GPA—but he also tells them something else: hurry up and get your kids on the First In Math program.
Left to right: Jillian Kearney currently ranked #10, Jude Kearney currently ranked #2, and Josilyn Kearney currently ranked #7 in the National Individual Player Rankings.
Three of Kearney’s four children participate in First In Math program at home. “My wife Lisa and I purchased First In Math to give our kids a leg up on competition; we wanted to see them tested at home so that we could assist them in trouble areas, if found. We did not want to wait on a low score at school to alert us to issue with understanding in a particular area. FIM is our ‘litmus test’ on their understanding of difficult math concepts.”
Nine-year-old Josilyn is a third grader at 34th Elementary and aspiring teacher. Ten-year old Jillian is currently a fourth grader at the same school, but wants to be a lawyer like her grandfather. Jude is 11, and currently a fifth grader at Belair Middle School. He likes economics and hopes to work for the Federal Reserve one day.
According to Kearney, they all like FIM, Jillian citing the fun games and activities, while Josilyn and Jude like that the games help them improve their math skills and stay ahead of the core materials for their classes.
Though the First In Math program is not part of the curriculum in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Kearney says that teachers there encourage his children to use the program, and allow them to log on in class. “Josilyn has learned so many advanced topics while doing the program that she has gotten ahead of her third grade math curriculum,” explains Kearney. “Her teacher, Ms. Claret, allows her to get on the class computer to do FIM when she has completed her other work ahead of time.”
“On occasion, both Josilyn and Jude have been asked to teach fellow students advanced concepts that they mastered through First In Math,” explains Kearney. “Last year while Jude was in fourth grade, a teacher borrowed him to lead discussion in her 5th grade class on a math topic. They have also shown other kids the program at their weekly Gifted & Talented classes, which are held among students from different schools.”
Kearney says that he found First In Math on the Internet while searching for a comprehensive program that would allow the children to gauge their performance on a national scale. “We actually wanted a program where they could set a goal for themselves against their peers nationally and strive to meet it, and that was First In Math!” All three are currently ranked in the Top 10 nationally in the at-home competition.
“I want to have the #1 Ranking,” says Jude.
“Our kids are competitive, and often try to see who will have 100 bonus stickers first each day,” says Kearney. “They are also competitive in other areas— Jillian and Jude have each won the Jefferson County level spelling Bee twice, while Josilyn is seeking her second county level win this year—but they do help each other. If one learns a topic first, they will sass each other for needing assistance, but give it all the same.”
To purchase a FIM Individual License, visit our sister site 24game.com
EASTON, PA—Robert Sun, chairman, president and chief executive of Suntex International Inc., is looking forward to his first visit to India in November, and has much to offer stakeholders in education.
Scheduled to tour several cities and meet with leaders in the Ed-tech sector, Sun will also participate in meetings with prominent school leaders to discuss ways to create sustainable 21st-century learning environments.
Sun will speak to educators on several trending topics, and will discuss interventions that have the greatest impact on student achievement.
The inventor of the popular 24® Game—and creator of the award-winning First In Math® Online Program—has seen his math education products impact more than 20 million students worldwide since 1988. As a recognized expert in the use of technology to enhance math education, Sun’s articles have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, U.S. News & World Report and many education-related publications.
“I am honored to attend this series of stimulating, solution-based learning discussions with enlightened school leaders and game-changers,” says Sun.
“A recent ‘Digital India’ initiative means that school leaders now bear the responsibility to prepare students with skills required to succeed in a technology-driven economy,” explains FIM India CEO Monica Patel. “These meetings should lead to solutions for leveraging technology in fresh and engaging ways, to help students fully experience the joy of achievement and develop a strong learner identity.”
On a personal note, Sun habitually dines on Indian food at local restaurants near his home in Easton, Pennsylvania, and says he is not only looking forward to the exchange of ideas, but also “to the sights, sounds and culinary delights that await me in India.”
KINGWOOD, TX—Woodland Hills Elementary student, Rayne Jones, was the number one student in Texas, all grades, in the First in Math program last year. Jones earned 27,640 stickers during the 2014-2015 school year.
LEFT: Proud parents Rachel and Shayne Jones, with their daughter, Rayne. RIGHT: Rayne Jones receives an award from Texas First In Math representative Tony Morrow, and her teacher Samantha Morgenroth.
A student in Samantha Morgenroth’s class, the fourth-grader was voted ‘best problem-solver’. “Failure is not an answer for her,” Morgenroth told The Kingwood Observer in June. “Rayne has a passion and to reach for the stars and beyond. I definitely see a bright future for her. She is driven to finish long-term challenges.”
“Last year, I earned 9,000 stickers and I wanted to make this year’s state championship,” says Jones. She explains that when other people stopped playing, she didn’t, completing seventh- and eighth-grade content on her own. “I got a Silver Star on Skill Set 7. I was all giggly and couldn’t stop smiling.”
“The First in Math program has given elementary students higher achievement in math all across the school district,” according to Melissa Christensen, Humble Independent School District Elementary Math Coordinator. “Activities are presented in an online game format that students enjoy, and the emphasis is in mathematic skills that are designed to also strengthen problem-solving, reasoning and communication skills.”
“Congratulations to Rachel for being a great example for the district’s students,” says Tony Morrow, First In Math Texas representative. “Collectively, Humble ISD students earned nearly TEN MILLION stickers during the 2014-15 school year. I am very happy to see how much FIM is helping to involve students in math. I will be working hard this year to make sure that other Texas districts know this wonderful program is available to them.”
Part of our continuing series by educators, a contribution
written by Chevron Engineer Tongji Li.
PINOLE, CA—My name is Tongji Li, but I go by Youyou (pronounced yo-yo). I recently graduated from M.I.T with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and a concentration in Engineering Leadership. Hired straight out of school by Chevron, I am currently an employee in their northern California facility as an Oronite Development Engineer.*
L to R, back row: Asst. Coach Nate Quan, Chevron employees, a representative from Burger King (in purple shirt) and Pinole Mayor Peter Murray. Middle row: Mara Crooks, Speaker Stephanie New, Coach Youyou, Eddie Corriea, Jordan Goularte, Kayla Collins, Yongjia Huang, Nanthaya Mira Verweij). Front row: Vice Principal Esaul Orozco, Ruben Aguilar, Angelina Vuong, Irene Cisneros, Zoe Salswedel, Paula Marquez, Jeremy Edgerson, Lewis Corriea and Teacher Amy Robinson. (Photo credit: Charles Anderson)
I grew up in a single-parent household. We didn't have a lot of money, so my mom had to come up with creative games to amuse an energetic young girl like me.
When I entered middle school, I was so excited to find Bob Sun’s 24® game editions in my classroom—and to find out that there was a 24 Challenge® Tournament. I joined immediately! I loved it! Those math competitions were the happiest and most wonderful moments of my middle school years. They gave me perspective, inspired me to work hard, and instilled a life-long love of math—and learning.
Hoping to spread my love of math—and give underprivileged students an opportunity to expand their horizons—I worked with the West Contra Costa Unified School District and Pinole Principal Denise VanHook to implement a Math Club at Pinole Middle School in West Contra Costa County in late November of 2014.
Initially, I heard from several alumni that math was not a prominent extracurricular activity, and most students were supposedly not interested. I reasoned if that were true, it could simply be from lack of exposure. These students—and all students—have incredible potential, they might just not know it.
Since then, I have taken them to a MathCounts competition, and prepared them for the Mathematical Association of America’s AMC 8. The students showed incredible improvement since joining the Math Club, and armed with those positive results I presented a plan to convince the district and the school to allow me to organize a 24 Challenge® Tournament.
I contacted Suntex International, makers of the 24® game, and they were incredibly helpful, especially Suntex VP Barbara Asteak, who offered lots of guidance and put me in touch with California rep Jill Henderson. The kids were so excited to hear about the backing and support from the 24® game they drew a giant thank-you note on the classroom bulletin board.
With so much support, our May 28, 2015 event was a great success. If I had only one word to describe it, that word would be INSPIRATIONAL. If I am allowed to have more words, they would be AWESOME, AMAZING and FANTASTIC.
A giant Thank You note to Suntex was created on the classroom bulletin board, and signed by the members of the Pinole Middle School Math Club. (Photo credit: Charles Anderson)
During the competition, I had never seen the kids more focused, and there was an electric buzz of excitement in the air. All of the kids stayed after school and waited outside the room until the setup was done, when they all rushed in! The room filled with sounds of laughter, competitive jostling and mumbling of nervous wondering. However, when the competition began the silence was as though we vacuumed all the air out of the room. The only sound you could hear were card taps and solutions—or the occasional shutter click of a camera.
Sponsors from local Burger King and Krispy Kreme restaurants attended, and Pinole Mayor Peter Murray came and stayed the full two hours! We had six volunteers from Chevron, along with Math Club assistant coach, Nate Quan, and my visiting friend from MIT helping. I would like to thank them, and everyone that helped me give these students a great mathematics experience.
Why I am trying so hard to give these experiences to the kids—even though I don't work for the district and I'm not a teacher? Because it is my passion. I want to pass my love of math and learning on to all children. They are our future, and I want to help give them the best opportunity to succeed.
* What is an Oronite Development Engineer? According to Youyou, it is rotation of engineering positions that allows her to experience a new field in each of the first three years of employment. “The purpose is to allow us to see as much of the company as possible, to see what will best fit our strengths and passions.”
LITITZ, PA—Reidenbaugh Elementary School student Peter Sanchez and his sisters Catherine and Madeline are triplets, and all three participated in the First in Math program in third grade. But, they don’t do everything together. Last winter, Peter spent part of every Monday morning from January through April with his peers, indulging his interest in the 24® Game.
Reidenbaugh third- and fourth-graders having fun on 24 Challenge Club day.
Reidenbaugh sponsors a 24 Challenge® Club for third and fourth graders that meets every Monday. The club is run by third-grade teacher Nicole Wingert. “One of our goals when we started was to give students practice for the Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13’s 24 Challenge® math competition in May.”
Wingert likes working with 24 game cards, and says they are a wonderful teaching tool because students can look at math in a different way. “It gives different students a chance to shine.”
In addition to the 24 Challenge Club, Reidenbaugh also uses First In Math to supplement its mathematics curriculum. “It is part of the daily routine in many classes,” says Jason Hoffman, K-12 Math Supervisor for Manheim Township.
To help engage students and teachers, Hoffman visits schools and delivers a special ‘Golden Calculator’ award to top FIM teams. “Every Sunday night I send out an e-mail update to all of our teachers and principals,” says Hoffman. “I actually use four old calculators that no longer work and I spray paint them gold and then adhere to a poster. One calculator goes to the building with the highest cumulative number of stickers per student, one to the classroom with the highest cumulative number of stickers per student, another to the student with the highest cumulative number of stickers and the final calculator is presented to a building/classroom/grade level/individual student who successfully completed a challenge that I posed to them the previous week.“
A few weeks ago, the challenge Hoffman issued to seven teams who were hovering between 900-999 stickers per student was to make it to the 1,000-sticker milestone. “Our students have been doing an excellent job on FIM. They love the friendly competition and have really been pushing each other. It's been great to see kids motivated to do extra math! It's funny how an old calculator painted gold is such a motivator!”
EASTON, PA—Something very exciting happened at the Suntex International offices today – we received our 2015 TECH & LEARNING “Best of Show at ISTE” award.
The prestigious BEST OF SHOW award recognizes premier products at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) 2015 Conference & Expo.
“We are very excited to give this lovely crystal award a prominent place in our lobby,” says Suntex Executive Vice president Nan Ronis. “Every time I see it serves as a reminder about how hard we all work—and have worked for 20 years—to bring the best possible math products to the education landscape.”
REHOBOTH, DE—As a teacher, Sheila Stephanis has heard her share of ‘what I did on my summer vacation’ stories. This summer, with the help of the 24® GAME, she created one of her own.
Left: Shelia Stephanis works on the 24 game logo portion of her design. Right: The finished sculpture.
Stephanis, from Marietta, PA, was among more than 100 teams expressing their artistic flair in the sand at the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce 37th Annual Sandcastle Contest on August 1.
“I've been teaching kids how to play the 24 game for 24 years now,” smiles Stephanis, who taught math at Elizabethtown Area Middle School for 19 years, and most recently taught 4-6th grade math at Bear Creek Intermediate School. Now retired, she enjoys sand sculpting, and participates in the contest each year. This year she decided build her sculpture around the 24 game.
Prizes are awarded to the Top 10 sculptures in several categories. Stephanis was one of the winners in the Top 10 Judge’s Favorites (Adult, 15 & up) category. Her sculpture was titled simply, ‘24 Game’.
“I had a lot of nice comments on the sand sculpture and won a trophy, but the interactions with the people were the best part. After my big win, I sent some photos to Suntex, makers of the 24 game and First In Math. I thought they might get a kick out of it,” chuckles Stephanis.
“Everyone in our office was just blown away by this incredible sand sculpture,” says Suntex VP Barbara Asteak. “It is heartwarming to learn how many different ways we touch lives with our games, and how many different mediums are used to express the love and appreciation children and adults have for the family of 24 games.”
“Even though I’m no longer teaching, I still think the 24 game is the greatest,’ says Stephanis. “My kids loved the game and it was a great mental math exercise. They were sharpening their skills but it just felt like fun to them.”
Stephanis especially loves what used to be referred to as the ‘Platinum’ editions—Fractions/Decimals, Algebra/Exponents and Integers—and wishes more kids would become interested in them. “My advanced students were crazy about Platinum cards, and pressed me to teach them concepts that were not yet in their curriculum. They became whizzes at the decimal, fraction, exponent and algebra cards, and finally I had to teach them the integer rules so they could solve integer cards too—even the fourth-graders. They solved cards faster than I did, and I’m pretty good.”
The veteran teacher also used the First in Math program, which she says her students enjoyed, but her greatest memories are still tied to the 24 game. “Back in the day when we had a Pennsylvania State Championship competition, Mr. Sun signed a shirt of mine. I'll frame it when it falls apart. Thanks for inspiring my kids!”
See all 9 Classroom-sized editions of the 24 game, including “Platinum” cards, at 24game.com
PHILADELPHIA, PA—Tech & Learning announced its prestigious BEST OF SHOW awards honoring the premier products at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) 2015 Conference & Expo. The First In Math Online Program was among the winners.
“We are honored to have First In Math recognized as a leader in Technology education during a prestigious gathering such as ISTE,” says First in Math CEO Robert Sun.
"We believe that First In Math offers an incredibly engaging technology environment that allows children to become comfortable with—and skilled at—math. When children become confident in their math skills, they activate their own power to connect the dots across a variety of subjects on many different levels.”
Education publisher Education DIVE* described the show floor as a veritable who's who of K-12 ed tech's best and brightest, from Google's virtual reality goggles to knowledge-mapping tech. Their website listed nine tools to keep an eye on—including First In Math.
Winners were selected by an anonymous panel of educators who scoured the exhibit hall floor during the conference, evaluating criteria such as quality, effectiveness, ease of use, and creative use of technology. They then determined which technologies could have the most impact in the classroom.
According to Tech & Learning Content Director, Kevin Hogan, Best of Show judges focus on the “potential of the tech” and which products are seen as game changers. "The award spotlights products and services that show the greatest promise according to the country's most tech-savvy educators."
The largest and most interactive tech event in the world, ISTE's July conference hosted nearly 21,000 teachers, technology coordinators, administrators and policymakers along with 550 exhibitors from 76 nations. More than 1,300 booths offered upward of 1,000 learning opportunities for students and adults.
The four-day conference’s focus on digital-age teaching/learning, leadership, professional development and technology infrastructure was augmented with panel discussions covering more than 39 topics. “Educational technology is a hot topic right now, but it is not new to us,” says former teacher and current First In Math Implementation Specialist Shawn Collier. “For years, First In Math has given teachers a technology resource with the ability to deliver truly individualized instruction.”
* Related: "9 ed tech developments to note from ISTE 2015"
“Mathematics is essential not only to lifetime success, but also for a society's future. If America is to succeed in educating its students for the future, we must create a system wherein the whole individual is addressed, developed, and encouraged to thrive in the pursuit of a better life." —Robert Sun
Read Sun's Education Week blog about Education & Testing
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