PHILADELPHIA, PA—Pranav Arora was diagnosed with Leukemia in August of 2012, when he was only six years old. He had to leave his home in Malaysia and travel to Australia for medical treatment, but after four months there, doctors suggested he travel to the United States for a bone marrow transplant.
The brave little boy and his family landed in Philadelphia in December of 2012 to an uncertain future.
UPDATE: In April, Pranav surpassed the Mathematician level and earned FIM Genius status.
“My son’s transplant finally happened in February of 2013, but he could not return to school until November, and was still only partially recovered,” recalls his father, Amit Arora. “Barbara Light, his teacher at St. Francis Xavier School, introduced him to First In Math, and he immediately got hooked on it. He loves numbers and mental math and seldom uses a notepad to do calculations, and since math is a common language across countries, it helped him stay focused throughout.”
Within four months, the plucky second-grader scored more than 2,800 stickers, eventually reaching FIM’s Mathematician status in March of 2014. He aims to reach the Grand Champion level in the coming months, and then hopes to join the Ultimate Grand Champion Club of students who have earned more than 50,000 stickers—a lofty goal he set his sights on when he heard that only a handful of children had done it.
Pranav’s father believes that First In Math helped his son regain lost confidence. “In a new country and completely new environment, establishing himself was tough. Given his illness and ongoing treatment, and the fact that he was uprooted from his home and moved across three continents in five months he has made us proud with his positive attitude and desire to achieve.”
“Thanks in part to FIM, Pranav no longer feels alienated in this new country and his new school. His math skills have won him friends and appreciation from his peers and teachers,” says Amit.
St. Francis Principal, Dolores Butler, says Pranav came back slowly but is now well enough to attend school full-time. “He is a happy boy who enjoys being with his classmates and he works very hard. Recently we asked students to write about a place that was special to each of them—he wrote about Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,” says Butler.
These days, Amit is thankful to have a happy, healthy son, and is glad to be able to share his story. “I hope my son’s success can be an inspiration to other children who are dealing with serious issues.”
What is a FIM Mathematician? A Player Badge icon appears on each Player Homepage, and indicates progress in the program, based on stickers earned. To become a MATHEMATICIAN, players need to earn more than 3,000 stickers.
EASTON, PA—“The latest First In Math Online Program game release, Rock-Paper-Scissors (RPS), appears to be an instant blockbuster,” according to program creator Robert Sun. The game launched Friday, March 28, 2014 and announcements were posted that afternoon. During that weekend, 28,507 students played K2 RPS, and nearly 50,000 students played the Standard RPS game.
There are three versions of Rock-Paper-Scissors: K2 RPS is located in K2 World; Standard is located in Bonus 5 and the challenging RPS Master edition is in Bonus 8. K2 and Standard versions of the game are open to ALL players, regardless of the number of Skill Sets completed. Access to the Master edition is contingent upon completion of Game 1 in Skill Set 8.
“The RPS game combines a simple concept with very challenging play value,” says Sun. “We took a popular game played in school yards for centuries, added the twist of Chess-like strategy and, voila, another engaging game in the FIM universe that develops crucial skills like problem solving and strategic thinking.”
The RPS Standard game features a 4 x 4 grid, where players encounter a varying arrangement of three icons: Rock (fist), Paper (open palm) and Scissors (two fingers). The object is to move an icon to overtake another and repeat the process until there is only one icon remaining. “The added intrigue comes from the fact that each icon has limitations on how it can move and the specific icon it can capture,” explains Sun.
Sun was amazed to find that there were several students who completed the Master version with perfect scores, because games in Bonus 8 are designed to be difficult and intense. “The RPS Master edition plays on a 5 x 5 grid and starts with 10 icons in Round 1 and progresses in difficulty to 15 icons in Round 4. To get a perfect score, you have to complete 60 games without using the Undo or Restart button even once. During our extensive testing process I had difficulty even getting through Round 1 without having to resort to the Undo button,” admits Sun.
“I had a great feeling about these games throughout the year-long long process of creating, refining and testing, but I feel even better about the fact that we are indeed helping to ‘Create a new generation of thinkers’ – and boy can they think at an incredibly high level!”
NEW ORLEANS, LA—First In Math Online Program Ambassador Cred U. Dobson has been selected as this year’s recipient of the Benjamin Banneker Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Dobson will accept the award at a breakfast sponsored by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt at the New Orleans Downtown Marriott on Friday, April 11.
Dobson in 2012, and in 1965, when he took a temporary teaching position—and found his life’s calling.
“Cred’s commitment to excellence in mathematics education for all children represents the fabric of the Benjamin Banneker Association,” says Vanessa E. Cleaver, Ed.D., BBA President. “We are so proud of the contributions Cred has made to mathematics education throughout his 40+ years in education.”
Cleaver says she is thrilled to honor Cred for the enthusiasm and excitement he always brings to the table. “The highlight of our annual conference will be the presentation of the BBA Lifetime Achievement Award to Cred.”
The oldest of six children, Dobson helped look after his brothers and sisters after his father, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty. Four out of five of his siblings attended college.
Dobson served as Mathematics Curriculum Academic Content Coach for the School District of Philadelphia’s Northwest Region, and it was in this capacity that he first met 24® Game inventor Robert Sun in 2002. "One of the things that drew me to Cred is that after all those years, he remained passionate about education, and open to new teaching tools," explains Sun.
When he retired in 2006, Dobson was presented with myriad honors in recognition of his long years of service. “I enjoyed every minute of teaching three generations of kids in Philadelphia,” Dobson says proudly. Tireless in his pursuit of excellence in mathematics education, he would soon embark on a new career: ‘Ambassador’ for the First In Math® program. Dobson saw the deep-practice tool as a great way to improve the math performance of minority students within his district.
“Cred truly believes that the failure to provide every child with a decent education is a disservice to the future of our country,” explains Sun. “In his capacity as First In Math Ambassador, he is continuing his life’s work.”
“Cred has a unique ability to motivate students and have them become enthusiastic about learning,” explains long-time colleague C. W. Henry Principal Carol Nejman.
Despite effusive praise from colleagues and former students, the always-humble Dobson says his success as a math teacher simply stems from the belief that “You don’t teach mathematics, you teach children.”
WASHINGTON, DC—It proved to be a winning combination—a motivated school, a well-matched competitor, an inspiring leader with a dedicated staff, and the excitement of March Madness.
Kramer students celebrate their FIM March Madness title.
After several weeks of fierce competition, all 435 Kramer Middle School students celebrated their status as the 2014 District of Columbia Public School First In Math March Madness champions at a March 26 awards assembly hosted by Principal Kwame Simmons.
Simmons, one of the tournament’s most ardent supporters, explains the impact the First In Math program has had on his students. “First In Math is building the overall capacity of my students. They would never have independently explored math prior to their exposure to this program. Now they are engaged and willing to take a deeper dive.”
LEFT: Kramer Principal Kwame Simmons helped present awards to students. RIGHT: Robert Sun and Khadeejah Smith, FIM Anchor at Kramer MS.
That dive delivered gratifying results when the students accepted their trophy, having made it through many competitive rounds on their way to the Final Four. Kramer Middle School, IYP, Moten and School Without Walls were all candidates for the title. In the final matchup, Kramer held off IYP to take the title.
Capitalizing on the popularity of college basketball’s spring tournament among DCPS students, the FIM March Madness competition mirrors it’s college counterpart by inviting the top schools in the district to participate. Each school is paired off with another, and the school averaging the most stickers per student over a 48-hour period moves on in the brackets. This assures that the competition is based on effort and the willingness to work hard to solve math problems.
In addition to winning the FIM March Madness Championship title, Kramer Middle School is presently the #1 ranked First In Math school in the District of Columbia, and a heartbeat away from being the first District of Columbia school to enter the National Top 100 Schools rankings (All Grades).
During the assembly, Robert Sun, creator of the First In Math program, addressed the students via a live video feed and congratulated them on their significant accomplishment. “This achievement represents a lot of hard work and commitment,” said Sun. “You’ve proven to yourselves, the city and everyone who believes in you that adversity isn’t going to stop you or slow you down. You have experienced greatness, and with the support you receive from a school full of angels, you can grow that opportunity and thrive."
Sun ended his congratulations by assuring students that the strong foundation they build in math today will serve them well throughout the rest of their lives.
LONDON, ENGLAND—The Mayor’s Fund for London will join forces with the UK’s best-loved mathematician, Johnny Ball, to inspire London’s primary-school children to take part in a new math challenge. A total of 52 schools will take part in the COUNT ON US CHALLENGE, which is based on the 24® Game and the 24 Challenge®, created by U.S.-based Suntex International.
British television personality Johnny Ball visits with children who are preparing to take on their best and brightest peers in a London-wide Math Challenge.
The initiative is part of their wider Count On Us numeracy program aimed at motivating more than 3,000 children in 150 primary schools across the capital over the next three years. The top 13 schools will attend the Count On Us Challenge Final on June 10th, 2014 at City Hall.
In his role as ambassador for the Mayor’s Fund for London, Ball visited Sacred Heart Primary School in Wandsworth, to help inspire students to enjoy math, and give them hints and tips on how to play the 24® Game. “An understanding that maths is both fun and empowering is one of the most important things we can teach young people today,” explains Ball. “I am delighted to be working with the Mayor’s Fund for London to support Count on Us, which has identified key challenges for young people in getting to grips with numeracy."
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London agrees. “A good grasp of maths is a vital skill for success in the job market. The Mayor’s Fund for London’s work with young Londoners will help improve their chances of getting a decent job, escaping the threat of poverty and playing a full part in London’s future as the greatest city on Earth."
Jared Brading, Head Teacher at Sacred Heart Primary School says that the Count on Us Challenge has encouraged his students to see math in a different way, approach learning math with a more positive attitude. “We use the 24® Game across the classes and the Count on Us Maths Club to get children thinking.”
Count On Us was created as a result of a six-month investigation and study into the need for intervention to increase math skills among London students. Commissioned in partnership with City Bridge and conducted by National Numeracy, the study helped to identify where the Mayor’s Fund for London could best make a difference to halt the decline in math skills at an early age. Research shows that each year, nearly one out of every five 11-year-olds in London left primary school with the math skills of a seven-year-old.
The report’s three key recommendations were:
a) Make math more fun and engaging, and enable children to apply their skills
outside of the classroom
b) Raise the profile of math in schools and tackle the general negative attitude toward
c) Encourage parents and caregivers to participate/engage with their children’s math education
The Mayor’s Fund for London’s exists to give young Londoners the skills and opportunities to get a decent job, escape the threat of poverty and play a full part in London’s future as the greatest city on Earth. Work focuses on helping young Londoners to be engaged, healthy and motivated to learn; offering extra support for core skills which employers say are absolutely essential (particularly numeracy and literacy) and supporting employers to create decent and sustainable career prospects for young Londoners.
DID YOU KNOW - MATH vs MATHS: People in the UK, India, South Africa and several other countries say “maths” instead of “math,” as we do here in America. Other slight differences you may notice in this article are the way our words “student” and “elementary” equate to their UK cousins “pupil” and “primary.”
A continuing series by former teacher and current FIM Implementation Specialist Shawn Collier
Like many parents with school-aged children I was in the middle of a busy day, having taken time off during work hours to pick up my son at school and bring him to a dentist appointment.
As we were leaving the dental office, I noticed a boy who looked to be in 5th grade or so in the waiting room with his mom. The boy had obviously just left school, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that he was wearing a First In Math Player of the Day badge and lanyard!
FIM Player of the Day badges and other incentives are a great way to recognize academic achievement.
I stopped and congratulated the boy, and told his mother how great it was that her son had earned Player of the Day status. Her face simply lit up. She didn't say much other than thank you, but the look on her face was pure pride. Long after I was gone, I'm sure it continued to be a topic of conversation between the dentist—whose children attend catholic school in Bethlehem, PA and are big supporters of FIM—and her staff, as well as the mother and son.
This is just one of the ways the First In Math Online Program can transcend math stereotypes.
Every time I travel to a new school I am excited to help their teachers implement the program because I believe that our content CANNOT be beat, but the math we offer is just the tip of the iceberg. We also offer students a chance to feel proud of themselves. We offer parents a chance to feel proud of their children and celebrate them—even show them off—for academic achievements. We offer the public the opportunity to recognize these children and parents, as well.
Recognition leads to more pride and confidence among students, and allows them to see themselves as capable learners who are able to achieve anything they put their mind to. That is a BIG DEAL to the average kid in a classroom.
I have recently started working on my thesis, and reading a lot of educational research regarding students’ math abilities and the perception of themselves has been very insightful. Self-belief is one of the greatest factors in a student’s ability to be able to achieve academically. Much time is spent talking about math curriculum, which is important, but if you cannot affect the attitude, you cannot fully affect the child.
Ultimately, as teachers we can affect attitudes. We can give students reasons to smile in math class. We can allow kids to feel pride in themselves.
Hats off to the teacher who gave that little boy a Player of the Day badge—and to all of you caring math teachers out there. Thank you for what you do. It truly makes a difference.
“First In Math’s Family Link feature can completely reinvent the family dynamic surrounding math practice,” according to Suntex Vice President Barbara Asteak. “When a parent can say ‘How do you do this?’ rather than, ‘You need to do this’ that’s a game-changer.”
Vijay Anupama traveled to the Easton, PA, headquarters of Suntex International to met FIM creator Robert Sun, who invited him to test some games currently in development.
“Instead of mom and dad prompting or cajoling their child to practice math, parents can demonstrate, learn and share with their children,” explains Asteak, who also suggests that parents and students set weekly goals for each other—and celebrate together when they are achieved.
One of the top Family Link parents in the nation agrees. “My 10-year-old son Vijay has been participating in FIM for three years and has really benefitted a lot from it,” says Anne Anupama. “This year, to motivate him and give him some competition, I also began solving math problems using the Family Link User ID provided by the program.”
“When I was in school, I was a little afraid of math, but through your website, I have learned a lot of math concepts which I had avoided learning earlier in my life,” admits Anupama, who adds that she is proud because her son can solve problems much faster than she can.
Anupama’s revalation does not surprise Asteak. “I have spoken with many parents and grandparents who tell me that they didn't expect to have this much fun doing a math activity with their child. Many smile when they admit they are grateful for the opportunity to brush up on fractions, decimals and even algebra.”
Anupama says that she and her son were able to help each other with the concepts of different games and enjoyed competing with each other. “I really appreciate that Family Link is provided by the FIM program.”
At the end of FIM competition on April 30th, 2013, Vijay was ranked 22nd in the nation, all grades, and second in Pennsylvania. His mother ranked third in the nation and first in Pennsylvania among all Family Link players. In the Family Link Combined category the pair was second in the nation and first in Pennsylvania.
“Anne and Vijay have both worked very hard and spent hundreds of hours building a solid foundation and proficiency in mathematics. This effort—75,347 combined stickers—is to be lauded, and can only result from intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic motivation,” says Robert Sun, who was honored to meet the entire family in August of 2013.
The meeting left a significant impression on her son, as well, says Anupama. "Mr. Sun’s life and hard work will really influence Vijay in his life—he will never forget it."
LOVEDALE, OOTY, TN—In February, first-ever female headmistress of The Lawrence School, Ms. Sangita Chima, gathered her maths department to welcome Monica Patel, CEO of First In Math India. In 2009, Chima was the principal at Billabong High International School (BHIS) Noida when the school was selected to first pilot the concept of a ‘deep practice’ program in India via the First In Math Online Program. Over coffee and delicious treats from the school’s in-house bakery, Chima explained to Patel that launching FIM at Lawrence was “a thoughtful initiation based on experience.”
Headmistress Chima (center, red tunic) and Mr. Suresh B (far right) head of The Lawrence School Maths Department pose with several members of the maths team.
“During my first exposure to FIM I was struck by the depth of design and the genius of inventor Robert Sun in presenting the content in seamless progression, thus completely engaging the student,” says Chima, adding that during her tenure at BHIS, sustained practice became the norm once FIM created a love for maths that became a part of the school’s culture.
Chima carried forward this rich experience from Noida in the north to Lovedale in south with the expert support of FIM Implementation Specialist, Akshita Gandhi. Being a boarding school, the Lawrence team was faced with an unusual situation. Students attending day schools continue with the excitement of FIM when they get home, with encouragement from parents. How could the children living on the Lawrence campus be encouraged to maintain participation during non-school hours?
Dynamic teachers quickly came up with the idea of organizing practice time on Sundays. The result of this drive is evidenced by a jump from 338,000 maths problems solved in December to more than 11,00,000 maths problems solved since November, 2013! Indeed, students are pursuing the task to its fullest and giving it their best at all times.
“My meeting with Headmistress Chima and Mr. Suresh, head of the maths department, made me understand why students from all over the world travel here to get a quality education,” says Patel. “Nestled in the Nilgiri Mountains, this sprawling 750-acre campus is home to an institution that has a rich history spanning 150 years, but more importantly is focused on the future—and the future of their students.”
At the end of her visit, Patel was especially moved by the parting words of the school’s spirited leader. “Watch out for Lawrence Lovedale, as our motto is - Never Give In."
EASTON, PA—At First In Math, we place a strong emphasis on the user experience. We update and refine our games on an ongoing basis and when a teacher, parent or student has a suggestion, we listen. These conversations often lead to a better experience for everyone.
Such was the case when David Hayward contacted FIM creator, Robert Sun, to report that his son was having difficulty with some of the Bonus games. The first-grader enjoyed FIM, but struggled to distinguish the colors in the pattern games because he is colorblind. Differentiating between red and green shape icons was especially difficult.
"I asked my son what colors he sees when he looks at the icon and he said the green icon was orange and the red icon was brown. He said he could tell the difference because the green icon was brighter than the red, but it was difficult,” explains Hayward. “That’s when I decided to email First In Math to see if they could help.”
Hayward’s email, which contained links to Internet articles explaining colorblindness, was immediately directed to Sun. There are variations in what a person with color blindness sees, according to Sun, who researched solutions on the Internet while considering an effective resolution to the problem. Hayward’s son has the most common form, Deuteranopia, which occurs in 7% of males. Deuteranopia and Protanopia make distinguishing between green and red very difficult. In Tritanopia, the problem is distinguishing between green and blue. You can see examples in the color wheels shown here.
“I realized that we have numerous modules that require sorting or determining patterns based on shape and color,” says Sun, who immediately set FIM designers a goal of creating shape icons that could accommodate various forms of colorblindness. “We decided that a green icon containing a pattern, such as wavy lines, would do the trick.”
Within a week, new shape icons were designed and emailed to Hayward’s son to see if designers were on the right track. “My son tested the prototypes and said it was much easier to distinguish the green icon with the lines included—mission accomplished,” says Hayward.
“It speaks volumes about Mr, Sun that he immediately responded to my inquiry, and within weeks he and his company were able to engineer an elegant solution to the problem,” says Hayward, who has come to expect good things from Sun based on past experience. “Before my son began using First In Math, I was a long time 24 Game fan. I used to take my students to the local Ohio 24 Challenge Tournament competition each year, and it was a great learning experience.”
Sun says the feeling is mutual. “It is great to hear from parents who are involved in their child’s education, and who are excited to help make the website better for everybody. Anytime I hear that there is a stumbling block out there for kids who are learning math, I’m curious to find out what it is and whether or not we can remove it. This was one example. As a small company, we have the ability to respond quickly to user input, and whenever possible, we try to do that.”
MIDDLETOWN, PA—A first-grader at Robert Reid Elementary School has become the first student at his school to reach the highest level offered in the First In Math program. Timothy Moore earned the title of Grand Champion when he surpassed 10,000 stickers.
Timothy Moore shows off his FIM GRAND CHAMPION certificate. (Teachers, you can download more than 140 different certificates from links on your Homepage: Certificates & Awards)
So far, Moore is the only student in the school to accomplish this goal. Reid students in second and third place have 5,000 stickers each. “Earning 10,000 stickers is quite a task, but it is even more incredible accomplishment for a first-grader,” says FIM VP Barbara Asteak.
Moore says that he has always had a love for numbers, which was evident even before he entered kindergarten, when his choice was to play with anything that related to clocks or numbers. When asked to explain his passion, Moore grins, “I just like ‘em.”
FIM stickers are earned by solving problems using addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and fractions. Moore completed many games, and he advanced as far as Skill Set 5, a level that challenges many adults. Moore also tackled the Add versions of the Integers, Decimals and Fractions Gyms.
Whenever he has a free moment at home, or is in the computer lab at school, he asks to log in to First In Math. Moore says he is on his way to becoming what he refers to as an ‘Ultimate Grand Champion’ by earning 50,000 stickers. Currently, only four players—one Team Leader and three students—in the U.S. have earned more than 50,000 stickers. Starting as a first-grader and given his enthusiasm and persistence, Moore may get there sooner than we think!
All of us can learn to communicate in the universal language of math. A circle is always a circle, and its circumference is calculated the same way no matter where you live. So, we were not surprised when First In Math (FIM) received enthusiastic reviews from several Italian students who were recently introduced to the online program—and its game-based content—through a sponsorship by World ORT.
Università degli Studi di Milano – Bicocca, (University of Milano Bicocca) in Milan, Italy.
Founded in 1880, World ORT is one of the largest non-governmental education and training organizations in the world. This year, through a network of schools, colleges, training centers and programs in Israel, Russia, Argentina, Western Europe and many other countries worldwide, their programs will benefit over 200,000 people of diverse ages and faiths.
“First In Math and World ORT share a commitment to the concept of Educating for Life,” explains Suntex International Executive Vice President Nan Ronis. Ronis was introduced to the organization through her involvement with the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley.
Acknowledging this similarity in their values, Ronis offered to implement First In Math in ORT sponsored schools who felt they could benefit from the program. She was contacted by the Italian affiliate and First In Math is now part of a Serious Games In Education pilot project in Milan. These classrooms are also serving as a “case study” for research associated with the Universita Biocca di Milano.
The students' remarks about the program revealed a strong awareness of their learning styles and their enthusiasm for its benefits. Translated from Italian to English, here is a sample of what they had to say:
“This work is…full of interesting games that draw people in. I liked it a great deal because it combines math with entertainment…”
“Before this game, I couldn’t do mental math quickly, but now I can make calculations in much less time…”
“I hope to continue to practice on the site and become FIRST IN MATH”
“I noticed that at the beginning the puzzles seemed impossible, but gradually and to my surprise, I was able to execute them without too much difficulty.”
“I initially encountered difficulties due to my lack of mental elasticity and the speed with which I could make calculations; as…I acquired a familiarity with the subject, and by practicing, I realized that I did succeed in coming up with solutions. The mental exercise was incredibly proficient at making my mind more nimble, not only in the field of math, but in general.”
These comments mirror what we hear from students here in the United States and other countries where First In Math is popular. It is encouraging to know that the universal language of math is the foundation for an equally universal education experience.
AUSTINTOWN, OH—Educators are known to do some exotic things to encourage math achievement. Past First In Math News & Notes stories have focused on student/teacher basketball games, teachers kissing pigs and even jumping out of airplanes, but Austintown Intermediate School students had a wild recess when third-grade principal Tim Kelty and fifth-grade principal Jeff Swavel agreed to sumo wrestle!
Austintown Intermediate School fifth-grade principal Jeff Swavel (left) and third-grade principal Tim Kelty are suited up to sumo wrestle. Photo © Austintown Neighbors
The creative pair challenged their students to earn 200,000 electronic stickers in the First In Math Online Program. A story written by Abby Slanker that appeared on the Austintown Neighbors website reported on their effort to encourage students to use First In Math. Read full story here.
Before the match, AIS fourth-grade principal Angel Owens handed out awards to top students. “We are here today because of First in Math. That is what has brought us all together. You all did an excellent job getting online and earning First in Math stickers,” Owens told the students gathered in the gym.
Owens laid down one important ground rule for the dueling principals. “Show your Falcon Pride,” Owens said. Then it was time for the two principals to live up to their end of the bargain. Students cheered loudly for their favorite during the match, and even did the wave.
“Both principals were more than happy to do it’” Owens told Slanker. “We wanted to get the students excited about First in Math and encourage them to continue doing their math problems online over the [holiday] break.”
How is your school encouraging math achievement? Is your school or classroom involved in an exciting project or activity that is creating math excitement and adding to your total sticker count? Please let us know by sending a note to firstname.lastname@example.org with a few details and your contact information. You may be featured in the First In Math News!
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