EASTON, PA—Recently, we conducted formal interviews with educators who use the First In Math Online Program to find out, in their own words, how we help them achieve their goals. We wanted to understand more about the true value and emotional benefit that First In Math Online provides. The results are in, and the main takeaway is that educators consider us their partner in “Energizing Every Child to Learn, Love & Live Math.”
How do we do that?
The First In Math program taps into a different way that children learn, the same way their brains work in the real world. Students exposed to this natural form of learning—one that combines creative and logical thought—are far more engaged than they would be with rote drills.
We have spent more than 20 years in classrooms all over the world—including a multi-year case study in the early 1990’s in Bronx, NY schools—to help forge the concepts that would later be honed through implementations and evaluations in districts such as Philadelphia, Cleveland, San Diego and National City, CA. Those years of in-depth analysis, coupled with our commitment to continuous improvement and innovation, have helped us develop a unique and highly-engaging learning system that motivates students through creative educational games and modules.
Some of the strongest feelings expressed in the interviews were not about improved test scores or raw data, but how teachers felt the program helped their students.
“Students come to see the application of math and how it applies to life situations.”
“Students experience the best of both worlds – learning & fun.”
“Math comes alive for students through their personal on-line games and curriculum.”
“Each student enters the program at his or her own comfort and skill level.”
Many educators felt that because the program is structured to allow entry at any level, the stigma of “starting from the beginning” is removed and each child can become energized immediately. Couple this with the fact that each child learns in a non-judgmental way—protected from peer pressure—and teachers have a resource with the ability to deliver truly individualized instruction that motivates students.
“You can tailor the curriculum to best connect with the child through every phase of his or her development.”
“You have the confidence to know that you are bringing one of the best math learning tools
available to your students.”
“You can personally participate with your students in their math development.”
“You are providing positive reinforcement to the child that inspires them to want to do well.”
You will begin to see the phrase “Energizing Every Child to Learn, Love & Live Math" featured prominently on the First In Math site. Not only because we believe it to be true, but because we are thrilled to know that those who use First In Math think so, too!
A continuing series by former teacher and current FIM Implementation Specialist Shawn Collier.
Flipping Stones. That was once an answer I gave in a job interview for a teaching position. No, the question was not “How do you find bugs?” The interviewers wanted to know what kind of environment I would have in my classroom, how I would engage my students.
They were puzzled with my answer, as you may be, so I added context.
I grew up a country boy in Potter County, Pennsylvania. We didn’t have a TV or a computer, the store was 10 miles away, and I saw more cows than I did people. However I had something that allowed me—in this environment where there was nothing to learn—to love learning.
I had a place to “play” that was filled with opportunities, and I also had guidance to focus my play. For example, when I was allowed go to the barn, and what time to be home for dinner. This allowed me to have a structure in my environment, but didn’t tell me what to do in my environment.
It started with a simple thought, ‘I wonder what’s under there?’ Mostly there were dirt, bugs and worms, but some days I found SNAKES! And in the creeks I found CRAYFISH! The little boy in me was hooked. I spent every day in the fields, in the creeks, wondering what I could find.
I still find myself doing this. I still flip rocks with my kids when I visit Potter County, but now I see the greater purpose. It taught me how to wonder about things. Why do snakes like hay bales? Why did those bees think under a rock was a good hiding place? How could I run SO much faster when bees were chasing me than when I played baseball? No one told me I had to have these thoughts, nobody made me go out and learn something everyday—I was simply given an engaging environment to play in and some guidance regarding how to interact with that environment.
Now when I’m asked the best ways to use First In Math I give the same answer: Flip Stones. Play with math. Be amazed at what new things you learn. Provide guidance (or ask for guidance) when needed. But ultimately, allow First In Math to be the engaging environment that students own and walk back into each day. Not because someone makes them—because they choose to.
Our desktop computers, laptops and phones have become more than something we use to get work done. They are our constant companions, and we rely on them for almost everything. So, even minor issues can seem like disasters, causing stress and a disruption in our work—and our play.
Fortunately, when using an online resource like the First In Math Online Program, there are some simple ‘tricks’ that can get you back on track quickly and with relative ease.
From time to time when browsing websites you may need to reset (empty) your web browser's Internet cache. The Internet cache is temporary storage area where locally-saved copies of recent web pages you have visited and frequently accessed data such as images are stored for rapid access. Clearing your web browser cache forces the browser to load the latest versions of web pages and programs you visit. Deleting it will not harm your computer. If your browser has an option to preserve data for bookmarked sites and you have bookmarked FIM, make sure this option is not enabled.
Prevention is always a good approach. Be sure to keep the web browser(s) you use up-to-date. If your system prompts you to install an update, doing so at your earliest convenience will go a long way toward keeping your Internet experience problem-free.
On desktop computers or laptops, pages that appear to be missing content (such as the Player ‘Hub’) can sometimes be fixed by emptying the cache. If that does not work, it may signal a conflict with third-party software, such as Adobe Flash Player. Updating your version of Flash to the most current version your device can handle (minimum version 11) will fix the problem.
If you have a current, valid First In Math User ID and Password but experience problems signing into FIM, it is usually a ‘Cookie’ issue. A Cookie a small piece of data sent from a website and stored in your web browser while you browse that website. FIM servers receive data via the Cookie to record the number of stickers earned and track the progress of game play. Be sure your web browser is set to allow cookies. (If you choose not accept cookies, you should be able to manually add www.firstinmath.com to your browser’s "accepted/safe" list.)
Even if you are not an Internet guru, most website issues can be resolved easily. Gather information about exactly what problem you are having, and access our extensive HELP/FAQ page or our Troubleshooting page, where the answers to many common questions can be found.
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK—In the Oklahoma City School District viewing area, “What’s Right with Our Schools” has become a popular segment on NBC-affiliate KFOR’s Channel 4 News. It’s an optimistic feature in the midst of the predominantly negative news that monopolizes the evening broadcast.
Recently, the show’s producer contacted Debra Knight, an advocate for the First In Math Online Program who lives and works in the area. He invited her to select a school to showcase for the first segment of the 2014-2015 school year.
“It was a really fascinating process! They took more than two hours of interviews and footage and edited it down to this segment,” explains Knight.
The highlighted school, Greystone Upper Elementary, implemented First In Math in 2012. Principal Sandy Jackson is delighted with his teachers’ and students’ response to the First In Math program, stating “The way this math is packaged, they want to do these problems!”
JIM NORTON TOYOTA presented Principal Jackson with a check for $600 in recognition of the school’s significant improvement in math proficiency.
In the words of reporter Meg Alexander, “Inspiring students and motivating them to be First In Math is another example of what’s right with our schools.”
View the full segment here.
At First In Math, we are privileged to have many reasons to celebrate throughout the year. When a school achieves a top ranking, a student reaches a new level of play or a classroom wins the trophy of the week, we are enthusiastic about their success. And, judging by the number of articles that are published to report these accomplishments, others share our excitement.
Recently, We Are DeKalb magazine featured a story about a school that achieved the top honor—ranking number one in Georgia and placing among the top 100 schools in the nation—Indian Creek Elementary.
First In Math creator Robert Sun is proud to see academic success reported in such a positive light, but offers a broader perspective. “I follow the fortunes of many schools—not just the highest-performing,” explains Sun. “We certainly enjoy recognizing the best-of-the-best, but it is important to remember that each school is working toward its own goal, and access to success that the First In Math program can provide is an important aspect of the learning experience. Its one of the reasons why students who play our games are motivated to keep improving.”
As a new school year gets underway in DeKalb County, Indian Creek Elementary will be striving to retain their title. First In Math Vice President Barbara Asteak says it well, “It’s exciting for us to see the power of math transform students’ attitudes.”
To read more about DeKalb County and its winning students, follow this link.
SUNLAND PARK, NM—Gadsden Independent School District, located in the southeast corner of New Mexico, spans more than 1,400 square miles bordering both Mexico and Texas. The landscape can be flat, dry and desolate between the district’s 23 schools, but within the walls of those buildings great things are happening.
Math Instructional Specialist George Manriquez (seated) and Gadsden Independent School District teachers.
“For the first time since the State started ‘grading’ schools, all of our schools received a grade of A, B or C for the 2013-14 school year,” said a very proud George Manriquez, GISD Math Instructional Specialist. “We were overjoyed when we saw our grades, and now the hard work of maintaining and improving begins.”
Mrs. Susan Yturralde, Executive Dir. Curriculum and Instruction concurs. “We were very gratified, and believe the First In Math Online Program has been instrumental in improving our math scores. Our principals and teachers have seen that when the program is implemented with fidelity we get great results.”
GISD’s K-8 students have been involved in the First In Math program for the last two school years. At a recent professional development refresher session, teachers reported the first thing students asked when they returned to school is “When do I get my First In Math login?”
Last year, GISD students solved more than 21 million math problems on the FIM website. Almost every elementary school saw the ‘average-stickers-per-student’ increase over the previous year—a barometer of success.
“This year our emphasis will be on the School Goals pages focusing on fact fluency and word problems,” says Manriquez, who expects to see a First In Math Wall of Fame in each participating school, and looks forward to seeing GISD schools, teams and students at the top of the FIM state and national rankings.
EGMORE, CHENNAI—First In Math® Online Program-India CEO Monica Patel visited the Don Bosco Matriculation Hr. Sec. School in Egmore, Chennai, this summer.
The School, named after Saint John Bosco, was founded in 1959. It was the first school in India to make the First In Math program a mainstay on their website by including images of weekly winners and posting their position on the FIM Rankings.
Father Irudayaraj (center) beams with pride as Monica Patel presents Ms. Sathyapriya with a First In Math Team Leader award and a 24® game.
“This school has a rich history of notable alumni, such as Indian chess Grandmaster and former World Chess Champion, Viswanathan Anand,” explains Patel. “So when I addressed students and teachers, I suggested a goal for them. I told them that Bosco gave the world a chess champion—now they should do the same for maths.”
“The young heroes responded to my call beyond all expectations,” says Patel. “Within a month, they had solved more than 1,846,200 maths problems, and became the top school on International FIM Rankings.”
Back in the US, Patel says she can still feel the combined energy of the school, led by dynamic Rev. Father Irudayaraj. “I first met Father Irudayaraj in January 2014. His hospitality is second to none, and we spent several hours discussing maths instruction. Like all great educators, he had a unique vision.” The school possesses numerous awards in cricket and chess, so to make the maths program more relatable, Irudayaraj’s idea was to approach it like a sport.
“This is a successful tactic that many top US schools also employ,” says Patel, adding that she is not surprised that the top five students on the International Rankings are from Don Bosco, with plenty more peppered across the Top Players category.
Maths coordinator Mr. Suresh Thomas and Technology administrator John Bernard Anthony also play crucial roles in motivating the boys. Teachers guided by Mr. Victor Raj complete this dynamic team.
Taking their teachings a step further, information about the compelling story of First In Math is shared with parents, to create a community that speaks the common language of First In Math. Specifically, parents are also made aware of Family Link™, a feature that allows students to earn an extra FIM User ID/Password to share with a parent or sibling.
The First In Math® Online Program’s sister-site, 24game.com, recently underwent a makeover, and we are excited for everyone to see its fresh new look!
“Our communications with teachers, students and parents occur through a variety of channels, including phone calls, Twitter and Facebook, but for many, our websites are the first point of contact. We wanted this site to better serve our partners and to more accurately reflect who we are as an organization,” says Suntex Executive Vice President Nan Ronis.
• The new site introduces a streamlined look that is both cleaner and more readable.
• There is an increased focus on helping schools hold their own 24 Challenge® Tournament events, including our new interactive Tournament Seating Assignment Tool.
• The homepage provides quick access to Classroom Activity PDFs, the Classroom Incentives Catalog and Tutorial videos. The clean and simple top-navigation menu bar is user-friendly.
“The re-launch was made possible through the hard work and collaborative efforts of our in-house team,” explains Ronis. “We were all committed to making this site better.”
At Suntex, looks matter, according to Art Director Lin Hochmiller. “The redesigned homepage marries a bit of our ‘old school’ roots with a sleek, new design,” explains Hochmiller. “The 24® game card images and logo are iconic images for our long-time fans. We wanted to respect that.”
Functionality is of equal importance. Drop-down menus allow users to quickly find content within an easy, hierarchical structure. “We think that you will enjoy browsing the new and improved 24game.com, and find more options and information each time you visit,” says Ronis.
Explore the changes we’ve made—and stay tuned for more to come. In the near future we hope to announce new game apps, and we are working on innovative ways to support classroom teachers, and to encourage more 24 Challenge participation.
LYNN, MA—When Robert L. Ford Elementary School lunch aide Cheryl Judge saw how much fun students were having with the First in Math Online Program, it made her want to help motivate them even further.
Judge, who serves kids lunch in their respective classrooms, heard students talking about the program and noticed one wearing a First In Math Player of the Day badge.
Photo: Cheryl Judge. Photo credit: Angela Owens / Item Photo
“I started joking with them, I told them I wanted a badge and asked where I could get one,” says Judge, who eventually approached Anmarie Donnelly, the school’s First in Math program anchor, to see if she could register with the program. Judge was thrilled to hear that not only does First In Math allow each teacher to play—every teacher is also provided with an extra Educator User ID. Donnelly also told her that the school’s FIM goal was to have the students complete three million math problems by the end of the school year. “I just wanted to help if I could,” offers Judge.
“She’s not a teacher, but she took an interest in the kids,” says Principal Claire Crane, explaining that it became a competition between Judge and the kids to see who could earn the most FIM stickers. “It’s good for the kids to see their lunch aide cares about them.”
Teacher Jen Smith encouraged Judge to help students in her classroom, and also participated herself. Within the program, teachers compete in their own category that is separate from students. Smith ranked fourth in the state and 25th in the nation among other teachers.
Two other Lynn Public School teachers and their students also achieved national ranking. Thurgood Marshall Middle School teacher Guarionex Rodriguez’s class is first in the state and fourth in the nation, while Tracy Elementary teacher Jennifer Nordyke ranked third in the state and 16th in the nation.
Condensed from an article written by Chris Stevens and published online in The Daily Item. Full article here.
If you enjoyed this story, you may want to view a related TED talk: “Why Lunch Ladies Are Heroes” by Jarrett J. Krosoczka.
Robert Sun, Suntex CEO and creator of the First In Math Online Program, had a recent byline in The London Economic, a digital newspaper with open and accessible views on business, economics, finance and international politics.
The publication strives to “collate opinion from across the world to create a forum free from censorship or political bias.”
London Economic editor, Jack Peat, believes that digital technologies will have as big an impact on the way news is dispersed as the printing press did at the start of the second millennium. He explains, “As we move forward into the third millennium, change is the only constant and we are presented with new capabilities daily, suggesting the digital revolution hasn’t happened; its’ happening.”
At Suntex, we share Peat’s enthusiasm for the unlimited potential digital technologies provide and his view that, “In an internet age of ‘everything, everywhere’, never have the challenges been so daunting and yet the opportunities so great.”
In his article, entitled, What WWII Pilots Can Teach Us About Maths Education, Sun references a lesson from the past to provide us with insights about how to approach challenges in the future. He asks the question, “Will the federal government’s ambitious plans to improve STEM education succeed or fail?” and he responds with a compelling recommendation for how to address one of our nation’s most immediate and important learning challenges. Although originally directed to readers in the United States, Sun’s message has global implications and applications, as recognized by Mr. Peat and his team.
Read the complete story here.
The following is excerpted from the July, 2014, edition of EDUCATIONAL EXTRACTS, A Bi-annual Peer Reviewed Educational Journal from St. Thomas College of Teacher Education, Pala, Kerala, India.
Anu James, HOD, Department of Science/Mathematics & Chief Examination Officer, JBCN International School, Borivali, Mumbai, explains the need and benefits of using innovations in mathematics teaching. Innovative practices undertaken by JBCN International School, Borivali, such as First in Math, are discussed.
The teaching and learning of mathematics is a complex activity and many factors determine its success. The nature and quality of instructional material, the presentation of content, the pedagogic skills of the teacher, the learning environment and the motivation of students are all important and must be kept in mind in any effort to ensure quality in the teaching-learning of mathematics. The value of using innovation, especially the use of manipulatives, has been recognized for many years, but some teachers are reluctant to incorporate it in their lessons. It is important for children to have a variety of materials to manipulate and explore if they are to construct mathematical knowledge. In order to have opportunities to learn math, children need first hand experiences related to math, interaction with other children and adults concerning these experiences and time to reflect on the experiences. Educational research indicates that the most valuable learning occurs when students actively construct their own mathematical understanding, which is often accomplished through the use of manipulatives.
JBCN International School believes in the maxim of learning through fun. The school is in association with various programmes/ organizations who practice this thoroughly in their activities.
Through the First In Math (FIM) Online Program, learners get immersed in an interactive environment where new skills are acquired progressively and improvement is continually recognized. In sports, kids take ownership of the practice necessary to improve, often with little guidance from adults. First In Math (FIM) facilitates this same response where students are eager to practice mathematics.
The program provides DEEP PRACTICE, which is a neurological phenomenon, more powerful than normal practice. Skills that may take months of regular practice can be mastered in a matter of weeks, or even days, by tackling a complex subject in manageable parts. With immediate feedback for error correction, students take responsibility of their own goal of mastery learning—driving success in every area. Significant test results can be achieved in minutes a day, using Deep Practice.
First In Math®, an online program created by world-renown Chinese inventor; Robert Sun, has a unique international competition feature, where math becomes a sport to motivate students to solve more problems. Compared to worksheets, students excitedly and willingly solve 5 times more problems on First In Math. “Having journeyed with FIM as a parent, teacher and strategist, I bring this powerful tool to India and create the awareness of brain-based learning that transforms the school and family dynamic”, says Ms. Monica Patel, CEO, First In Math, India. The community of JBCN International collectively solved approximately 15 lakh problems last year with the top player from Standard 4 having solved about 65,000 problems. Teachers and school leaders played a key role in motivating students to achieve excellence with First In Math.
Mrs. Fatema Agarkar, one of the trustees of JBCN schools, an enthusiastic and passionate educationist, spearheaded the implementation of this US based programme. 15 lakh students worldwide are using the program to master math skills. Comprehensive content is presented in a challenge format and gets students to love serious mathematics like no other program does.
JBCN Borivali was the #2-ranked FIM school in India for the academic year 2012- ’13 and in the year 2013-’14 we reached the top position ie. #1 Ranked FIM school in India beating more than 20 schools across the country.
The school as a whole, including the teachers, irrespective of their subject areas, has embraced this program and is taking it forward this year as well. Some of the reflections on FIM made by eminent educationists are as follows: “The First In Math® (FIM) programme is an excellent tool for drill work in mathematics. Mathematics is pegged on the ‘cliche’ that practice makes perfect and to a very large extent there is a lot of truth in it. Math teachers endeavor to provide this drill in traditional forms and students yearn for innovative and attention-gripping techniques.
FIM has successfully integrated these requirements of both teacher and student to good effect. What impressed me most of FIM is that it supplements the efforts of the teachers and does not replace it”, says Mr. Raymond Fernandes, Vice Principal. JBCN International School, Oshiwara, Mumbai. “Math has been a subject that I have dreaded all my life. Glad to be in the Humanities stream, Math was kept miles away. At JBCN, as the homeroom teacher for Grade 8, I was introduced to First In Math which allowed for learners, class and teacher awards. I tried my hand at it, enjoyed the activities, learned concepts without stress and loved every moment. I was the top teacher player of the school and also topped the National level for consecutive periods throughout the year. I would recommend FIM to everyone, especially those that dread Math and I am sure that Math will become your favourite subject.”- Ms. Snehlata Alphonso, Head of Humanities, JBCN International School, Borivali, Mumbai.
“The First in Math programme has encouraged my 6 year old to embrace mathematical concepts with eagerness and zeal. It has, in a fun-filled way, shown him that you can perfect yourself in Maths only if you practice daily. It did also help his reading and comprehension skills. So it is a programme with a dual purpose.” Ms. Florina Fernandes, HOD, English, JBCN International School, Borivali, Mumbai and mother of 6 year old Aaryan (JBCNite).
UPDATE: In April, we reported that one of our own, FIM Ambassador Cred Dobson, would be receiving the 2014 Benjamin Banneker Lifetime Achievement Award.
Prior to his retirement from the School District of Philadelphia in 2006, Cred held many leadership positions and received numerous awards in recognition of his long years of service. At the BBA banquet, long-time colleague, friend, and retired PA Dept. of Education Administrator Jackie Greene introduced the guest of honor by saying she has known Cred for 50 years because he was her middle school math teacher, asking “isn’t that what you all hope for as educators—that someday your students will do so well that they become your boss?”
Dobson received a standing ovation, and after the ceremony there was a line to congratulate him and take pictures.
Top Photo, l to r: Jackie Greene, Cred Dobson and BBA President Vanessa Cleaver, Ed.D.
Bottom left: Bob Sun, Jackie Greene, Nancy Kane, Dobson. Bottom right: Dobson, BBA West Regional Representative Emily Dixon and Paul Griffin, Vice President of Strategic Accounts at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
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