TAMILNADU, INDIA—On his first voyage to India in December 2015, Robert Sun, creator of the award-winning First In Math educational program, got a taste of traditional Indian hospitality—where the guest is royalty.
His arrival was heralded by a large group of students and educators from Shree Sarasswathi Vidhyaah Mandheer (SSVM) World School, who came to the Coimbatore airport to receive Sun and welcome him to a two-week tour of India. Donning hand-made badges and bearing flags with his picture, they garlanded Sun with fresh flowers and draped him in the traditional silk shawl.
Many greetings, meetings and feasts kept Sun busy during his two-week visit to India. Among other engagements, he was a featured speaker at the 76th IPSC Principal’s Conclave held at The Lawrence School, Ooty. Above, two dancers perform a classical dance recital.
At SSVM, Dr. Manimekalai Mohan, founder and managing trustee, along with her husband, S.Mohan Doss, trustee, and lead administrator, Mr. Karthikeyan, welcomed Sun with a garland of 1001 fresh cardamoms. Later, students performed the traditional Indian Bharatnatyam classical dance recital in front of a gorgeously-decorated, hand-painted backdrop celebrating the elements of the First In Math program.
SSVM’s top First In Math player, Narain Loganathan, offered insightful words in a speech that preceded an even more inspiring address by Sun to the entire faculty, students and several hundred parents.
In addition to enjoying the speakers, the guest of honor was impressed with the entertainment. “The dancers were incredible, everything was so colorful and rich,” says Sun, who explains that his description of the dancers could also be applied to the local cuisine. “The meals were delicious and so well-prepared.”
Sun enjoys a traditional banana leaf lunch.
“The reception I received at the airport, at SSVM—and really from everyone in India—was so warm and such an honor,” says Sun.
We look forward to publishing several additional reports on Sun’s journey, including coverage of the IPSC Conclave and meetings with top educators and entrepreneurs in India.
Sometimes, a thing can be incredibly successful, and still be misunderstood. Such is the case with our ‘Rock Paper Scissors’ module, which has been retooled and renamed RPS CHESS for 2016.
To better illustrate how these games employ strategic thinking skills, chess imagery has been merged with existing game icons. The fist (rock) moves like a KING; the open palm (paper) shows a ROOK image to connote movement like a rook; and the two fingers (scissors) icon incorporates a BISHOP image and corresponding characteristics.
“First In Math’s Rock Paper Scissors has so much depth, but we began to realize two things: that a name change could help convey the module’s true focus, and that we need to do a better job of explaining the games to educators,” says Cred Dobson, current First In Math Ambassador and former Mathematics Curriculum Academic Content Coach for the School District of Philadelphia’s Northwest Region.
“Mathematics is not limited to basic facts and procedures, and these games are valuable, mathematically-oriented activities that promote the development of thinking in logical steps and understanding proper sequencing skills,” says Dobson. “The greatest stumbling block that students face when moving into higher-area math is the lack of logical thought processes.”
All students need to learn HOW to think, not just what to think, says Dobson. “When studying algebra, students learn how to reason, and RPS CHESS promotes that same kind of thinking—in logical steps from the simple level to more complex levels. It helps students develop and practice strategic thought processes. For this reason alone, the RPS CHESS games are crucial, but within the framework of the FIM site, they also serve as a base to launch the presentation of other logical, thought-provoking games. Building brain-power in students is a multidimensional process!”
“Cred’s insight into the value of developing higher-order mathematical thinking is spot-on,” says Robert Sun, creator of the First In Math program. “RPS CHESS games build the ability to follow a series of logical steps, and this is not an easy thing to teach. In reality, we can’t really teach kids to do things; we can only teach them to practice things.”
According to Sun, an activity designed to build strategic thinking skills also benefits greatly from a familiar framework that kids already know and love, because it encourages the amount of repetitive play needed to build these skills. “I chose Rock-Paper-Scissors because it is one of the few games where the pieces capture each other in a circular fashion, and it is well understood by many people. Combining this unique feature with the parameters of how certain chess pieces move is the innovation that transforms a common children’s game into one that requires rigorous strategic thinking to play well.”
Unfortunately, some teachers who had not tried the game online associated it with the original Rock-Paper-Scissors they occupied themselves with as children, which required little thinking.
“An activity like RPS CHESS develops higher mental processes as we create hypotheses, make predictions, and fine-tune our expectations,” explains Sun. “In addition, every one of these games shows kids mathematical ideas in a spirit of play, which is a big and often hidden part of the true spirit of math.”
“The games, especially MASTER RPS CHESS, are difficult, but also for many kids kind of addictive, which means they strengthen their ability to focus on a complicated skill for the length of time it takes to master it. Math needs that.”
The holiday season is here, and we would like to announce a few presents for our First In Math family!
For tablet users—and just in time for winter break—our JUST THE FACTS 100 module is now iOS and Android compatible.
Updates on the non-tablet front include new versions of of K2-More Or Less, More Or Less, Decimals More Or Less, Fractions More Or Less—all featuring an updated look. The Rock Paper Scissors games have been updated as well, and renamed RPS CHESS.
Keep playing over the break, and we’ll see you all in 2016!
EASTON, PA—Throughout the year, First In Math creator Robert Sun receives letters from educators, parents and students, but none are so special as letters of thanks received during the holiday season. We would like to share some thoughts that students at Sun’s alma mater—St. Francis de Sales School in Philadelphia, PA—recently sent to him.
St. Francis de Sales students fashioned this beautiful envelope to hold their letters to Sun.
“Math wasn’t always my strongest subject, in fact it was my worst. When First In Math was introduced to me, I assumed it was just another website. I tried it out—and it helped me understand things in math that I never understood before! My math grades went up to the 90’s! I would like to thank you for offering me the opportunity to excel in math. The program may be small to others, but it means the world to me!" Sincerely, Chastidy S.
“Thank you so much for First In Math. When I’m at home and all my homework is done, I usually go to my computer and play on First In Math. It really helps me. I play games that relate to what I’m learning to help me understand it more. First In Math is a big help when it comes to school." Sincerely, Makeda W.
“Every Tuesday my class spends a whole period playing First In Math. I feel like that’s important because every time I play, my math skills improve and I become even better. Thank you for creating a program like this so that whenever I have some confusion on a certain topic I can go play First In Math and gain understanding of it." Thank you, Soortuu T.
“I am thankful for First In Math at our school. I’m happy about all the teachers who let us play First In Math, it helps us practice our math skills. I love this school, more because of how much First In Math has made me more smart!" Happy Holidays! Christopher J.
“I just wanted to say Thank You for First In Math because it helps us a lot. When we play we get smarter. Thank you for all the games that help us learn. All the games are fun, even though they are about math. God bless you!" Sincerely, Janilda.
“I would like to thank you for the creation of First In Math. Every year my goal is to exceed the number of stickers I had in previous years. It has affected me in a positive way. I have learned my multiplication skills, to look out for patterns, recognizing and memorizing different graphs and easily working with fractions and decimals. All the fundamentals of math have become simple, and easier for me to compute. I feel like math has become an asset to me. Math used to be a dread for me, but I have gotten so used to knowing simple skills that math now comes fast and easy to me. I have so much thanks to give you, Bob Sun, for this wonderful creation." Sincerely, Justin C.
LITTLE ROCK, AR—Whenever Cred Dobson visits Little Rock, he is immediately transported back in time to September, 1957, when nine black students enrolled at the formerly all-white Central High School.
Left: Cred Dobson explains the GOALS INDEX feature on the Team Leader Homepage. Right: Educators make ‘Factor Wheels’ during their 24® Game activity.
“It was a key event in the American Civil Rights Movement, and a key event in my life and the lives of many of my fellow students at the historically black Claflin University in Orangeburg, SC,” says Dobson, a former teacher in the School District of Philadelphia and current First In Math Ambassador. “We enrolled in Claflin as freshmen in 1961, and during the next four years our lives were changed forever by the bold action of young members of our generation.”
Fifty-nine years later, Dobson feels a great surge of pride in the fact that he can contribute to the educational progress of all of the students in Little Rock in a different way—through the First in Math® online program.
On November 5, 2015, Dobson and First In Math Coordinator Nancy Kane provided six hours of training to approximately 30 teachers and math coaches. Little Rock is in the third year of a district wide First in Math® implementation, and the additional professional development was requested by Dr. Vanessa Cleaver, Director of K-12 Mathematics for the Little Rock School District, to help educators maintain focus and stay up-to-date on best practices. Dr. Cleaver, along with Marcelline Carr from the math curriculum office, seek to facilitate math success throughout the entire district.
“Our morning focus was on First In Math,” says Dobson. “Reviewing content, analyzing data and assessments and sharing strategies were covered. Later, everyone broke up into groups to help create a customized implementation plan for the district.”
The afternoon session’s focus was 24® game cards. “With the assistance of the math coaches we were able to set up the room with five different stations—one station was independent work on the computer and the other stations were hands-on activities using different versions of the 24® game,” explains Dobson. At times the noise level in the room was quite high, with talking, laughing and cheering, but there was also a deeper purpose to the fun.
Different 24® game editions, such as Factors and Variables, were used as ‘differentiation’ activities that allowed participants to interact as students would. “Having the same feelings as the students—from not being sure what the answer is to feeling good about getting the correct answer—can help remind teachers about the range of emotions a student can feel when faced with new math challenges. This can help teachers better understand how to construct teaching strategies that allow students learn in different ways,” says Kane.
On Friday, Kane and Dobson also had the opportunity to speak with educators from around the state at the Little Rock Curriculum Conference at the State House Convention Center. “Our goal is to bring FIM to more districts in Arkansas,” says Dobson, who remained nostalgic on the trip back to Pennsylvania.
“My mind goes back to several years ago when, after our first visit, Nancy and I purchased and framed posters of the Little Rock Nine in front of Central High. I am proud and honored to say that I was able to have mine is signed by Minnijean Brown-Trickey, a member of that remarkable group.”
MUMBAI, INDIA—First In Math creator Robert Sun’s first trip to India has already encompassed many highlights, including a wedding, meetings, fabulous food and incredible hospitality.
Left: Sun enjoys morning tea at a relaxing outdoor café. Right: Sun is welcomed with a traditional dance and musical performance.
Sun’s visit to India culminates with today’s address to school leaders at the 76th annual Indian Public Schools (IPSC) Conclave at The Lawrence School, a premier residential school in Ooty. The IPSC is a prestigious group of 78 of the top-ranked residential schools in India.
The evening before the Conclave, Sun and Monica Patel, First In Math India Pvt. Ltd. CEO, attended dinner with Mr. Dilip Thakore, editor of Education World. (See related)
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.”
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