March Math Madness Part of a Larger Goal for DC Public Schools

March Math Madness Part of a Larger Goal
For DC Public Schools

WASHINGTON, DC—First In Math March Math Madness once again swept through the Washington D.C. Public Schools, creating a buzz around mathematics in classrooms throughout the district. “The play was incredible—and unpredictable,” says Lauren Allen, Coordinator of STEM Integration for the Office of Teaching and Learning, DCPS.

 “I am very excited to see how much this event has grown each year,” says First In Math creator Robert Sun. “I want to congratulate all participants, and recognize the top sticker-earner during the month of March, Beverly Lee, from Watkins ES.”

Top-scorer Beverly Lee
Left: Top-scorer Beverly Lee uses First in Math almost daily. According to her teacher, Elizabeth O'Donnell, Beverly loves to earn stickers for the class, and sometimes gets up at 6 a.m. to log in and play!  Right: The final bracket, and a Goals Index icon.

During the three-week elimination-style playoff, schools have to solve more math problems per-student than their opponent—over a two-day period—to advance. Grade level or proficiency doesn’t matter as there are hundreds of modules that can engage any skill level—what matters is effort and persistence in math practice. “We look only at growth during each round,” explains Allen.  After a tie between Eaton ES and Van Ness ES in the Elite Eight round, the Final Four became five as Key ES, Patterson ES, Stuart-Hobson MS, Eaton ES and Van Ness ES battled to advance to the Championship round.

Van Ness Elementary emerged victorious over Key ES in the Championship round. Teacher Michelle Johnson took to social media with this message: “Congrats to our hard working Van Ness Otters for winning the Math Madness Competition!”

March Math Madness was one of two First In Math competitions held this year to engage students. Patterson ES won the Fall Fact Face-Off, which motivated schools to integrate FIM into their classrooms. While exciting, competitions such as these are not the only tools to help reach schools, according to Suntex Executive Vice President Nan Ronis.

“At the start of this school year, DCPS Math Director David Goodrich established a district objective that called for all schools to reach a First In Math Goal Index of at least 50. Teams and students would focus on that target—the interest in sustained activity being part of the school-year priority,” explains Ronis.

Ronis says that the importance of positive math experiences for young students cannot be emphasized enough, which is why tracking progress, setting goals and making math a real-world experience matter. Sun agrees. “When young children are actively engaged—in motivating activities like the DCPS/First In Math event—we are setting them on the road to real exploring and learning. Motivating the youngest learners and instilling a love of math is so vital.”

In the grades 3-8 category, schools such as Ross ES (77.2) and Hardy MS (59.7) have already surpassed the goal. Many others—Stuart-Hobson MS (46.9), Key ES (43.6) and Eaton ES (42.7)—are getting close. It is no coincidence that many of these schools performed well in the Math Madness tournament. “Ross ES boasts a perfect 25 out of 25 on the Activity Index and a whopping 21.2 on the Fact Fluency Index – those are great numbers, and show that their students are ahead of the curve where basic math skills are concerned,” says Ronis.


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