FIM News

First In Math featured in 'We Are DeKalb' Magazine

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.

Gadsden Schools Celebrate Success,
Look Ahead, Set Goals

SUNLAND PARK, NMGadsden 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.

From First In Math to First In India

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.

Redesigned 24® Game Website
Is Ready for Its Closeup!

The First In Math® Online Program’s sister-site,, 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, 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.

Lunch Aide Motivates Students To Be First in Math

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 Asks What WWII Pilots Can Teach Us

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.

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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.

Learning Of Mathematics: Reflections On Innovative
Endeavours of JBCN International School, India

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.

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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).

Benjamin Banneker Association 2014 Award;
Updated Report and Photos

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.

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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.

Winner’s Circle: Janae Bell

With this story, First In Math News introduces a new feature, Winner’s Circle, where we introduce you to former champions and share their recent accomplishments.

We inaugurate our series with Janae Bell, 18, from Weston, Florida.

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Bell, who hosts an exercise/fitness blog on Instagram, says that her training will be an asset—both physically and mentally—when she is at Harvard.

Being first, as well as the first, is comfortable for Janae Bell.

During the 2005-2006 school year, when Manatee Bay Elementary introduced the First In Math Online Program, Bell won the fifth-grade title and also placed first in the state.

Now, nine years later, Bell has accomplished another first by selecting to matriculate at Harvard University this fall. She will be the first student from Manatee Bay Elementary to attend the Ivy League university.

Bell considers competition “healthy” and “important.” “Personally, I wanted to do the best I could and believed there was always room for improvement and that I could always achieve better.”

When Manatee Bay Elementary introduced First In Math, Bell loved that it “was not the traditional way of learning.” Her parents knew that if she “wasn’t around,” she was solving problems and earning stickers.

According to her mother, Janet Bell, “Every day, Janae would come home from school and do her homework. First In Math really helped strengthen her basic math skills and fluidity. Something about it made her want to push herself and practice every day.”

“It’s a game that serves a positive purpose,” explains Bell. “It allows students to discover a passion for math and find their own way.”

In addition to enhancing her math skills, both Bell and her mother believe that FIM developed other life skill such as setting goals, meeting goals, time-management and self-organization.

All of these qualities have been of added importance during the past year as Bell navigates her responsibilities as Miss Broward County Outstanding Teen 2013. Her involvement with the pageant was the unexpected consequence of a devastating injury that limited her ability to pursue a career in dance.

A veteran pageant contestant encouraged Bell to participate, and in doing so, she realized that although she would not become a professional dancer, as initially intended, she could celebrate her passion for a healthy lifestyle, exercise and fitness. Bell created “Let’s Move It” as her contest platform and her persuasive presentation and responses during the interview portion of the pageant contributed to her earning the crown.

At Harvard, Bell will be involved with the Phillips Brooks House Association, a student-run organization that endeavors to meet community needs while advocating structural change. An advocate of community service since her days volunteering with the National Honor Society at Cypress Bay High School, Bell is looking forward to “putting myself into many different situations” in order to learn about what suits her best.

When asked to share some words of advice with other First In Math enthusiasts, Bell said,

“You can always keep going. Challenge yourself—if you keep going you will be surprised at the levels you are able to complete. My experience with the game surpassed my own expectations.”

We look forward to seeing what Bell will accomplish next and wish her great success during her years at Harvard.

Summer Photo Series - FIM Champions

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Why underestimate how young our students can be, to love and excel in math? —Robert Sun


Japanese Student Ranks Top Ten
Across Two Continents

HAMAMATSU, JAPAN— When Aiko Yamauchi moved to the United States from Japan three years ago, she could not speak or understand English. She was, however, blessed with a love of mathematics—and lucky enough to be given a First In Math User ID by her new math teacher at Hershey Primary Elementary School.

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Left: Aiko Yamauchi, 2014 #4 Player in the US, all grades, solving a Monu’s Path puzzle at her family’s home in Japan. Right: Aiko poses with her FIM All Star trophy.

Having already mastered division and multiplication when she was in kindergarten, the energetic first-grader was immediately engaged by the scope of activities and unique content on the site.

“Aiko has loved mathematics since she was young, and even though she was very busy with other activities, she enjoyed playing First In Math every day,” explains her proud father, Katsuya Yamauchi. While at Hershey ES, she also practiced swimming at the Hershey Aquatic Club and played violin in the Harrisburg Junior String Orchestra.

“Aiko earned 20,000 stickers in first grade, 32,000 in second grade and 54,819 in third grade,” says her father. The nearly 55,000-sticker total this year ranked her #4 in the nation among all grades, and earned her a FIM Top Ten National All Star Award.

Unfortunately, Yamauchi had to move back to Japan with her family just before the end of the 2014 school year—before she was able to receive her award. “We knew Aikio worked very hard and she deserved the award. With the help of Karen Westervelt, her teacher, we were able to get the award to her in Japan,” says FIM Project Coordinator Nancy Kane.

“My daughter was very happy to get the award,” says Yamauchi, who was eventually able to touch base with Kane to arrange the delivery. “Thank you everyone at First In Math so much for your efforts.”

Having become accustomed to life and school in the States, Aiko had to initially readjust to Japanese school, but she did have the continuity of access to First In Math. According to her father, she has transitioned quite rapidly and still enjoys the site. “The system and contents of FIM are really excellent, and as a father, it is my hope that students all over the world will be able to participate in the FIM program in the future.“

Oklahoma First-Grader
Shares His First In Math ‘Adventure’

By Debra Knight, FIM advocate

SPENCER, OK—In May, I conducted an end-of-year First In Math program award ceremony at Green Pastures Elementary School in the Oklahoma City Pubic School District. Green Pastures is a struggling, inner city school that I communicated a lot with this year as they work diligently to improve their math program.

Among many of the wonderful students I met was first-grader Samuel Marshall. A smart, neat, huggable kid, his enthusiasm is contagious. He rose to the top of his school in the First in Math program, besting several fifth-graders and becoming the only player in the school to achieve FIM GENIUS status by earning more than 4,100 stickers. He was ecstatic when I told him that meant he had solved more than 12,000 math problems!

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Posing for a picture with Sam during the award ceremony; Sam with his Award Certificate and a photo of the writing assignment. First-grade misspellings aside, I was absolutely amazed at the vocabulary of this six-year-old.

Samuel’s teacher, Rita Horton, told me that for a recent writing assignment she allowed each student to pick the topic. Sam decided to write about First in Math, and specifically to thank the creator of the program, Robert Sun.  I asked Horton if I could get a copy of the assignment.

“First in Math is an adventure for me. It’s a journey for me to explore math. First in math to me is my way of learning my math and for being proud of my achievements and goals of being the first genius in the school. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to live in this country and thank you for making this program and giving us this chance to come to school. And I am happy for this school learning in the year of twenty fourteen.  And helping us stay focused on first in math is my Dream.”

As much as this letter touched me, it meant even more to Bob Sun, because he understands better than most the challenges many urban children face. He and I agree wholeheartedly that these students—with the right tools and encouragement—have the courage and persistence it takes to succeed and to quickly get back on their feet after setbacks. As Bob says, “Urban kids have grit by the boatload, and grit will turn these young people into a wellspring of talent in the future.” (Read: Why Inner City Kids Have A Natural Learning Advantage)

School has been out for almost three weeks now, and checking in on the Green Pastures FIM homepage today, Samuel is still actively playing and earning stickers. Kudos to Sam, Horton, Principal Harry Bryant and the entire school for dedicating themselves to academic success!

See More Articles in the News Archive

FIM 2014 Champion:

Josephine Nguyen

2014 Honorable Mention

Shangyu Andrew Xu (CT)
Julia Long (MD)
Thanusha Mathiyalagan (CA)
Aiko Yamauchi (PA)
Pranav Sundararajan (CT)
Adriana Cortes (FL)
Daniel Wang, Jr. (PA)
Vy Trinh-Nguyen (PA)

Team Leaders
Mathew David Morse (CA)
Maribel C. Ordonez (PA)
Lisa Leider (PA)
Adam Yaller (MA)
Stephanie Williams-Nykamp (PA)
Lisa Weingartner (OK)
Allyson Rusnov (OH)
Samuel Allison (MA)
Scott Colin (CA)
Jo Warren (PA)
Ken McKinney
Br. Gerald Hopeck (MD)

Manatee Bay ES (FL)
S C Lee Junior HS (TX)
Bishop Mussio Ctl JS (OH)
St. Francis Desales School (PA)
St. Veronica School (PA)
St. Laurence School (PA)
Baldi MS (PA)
Sacred Heart School (PA)
St. Didacus School (CA)
St. Gabriel's School (PA)

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