With an abundance of new data revealing the impact of COVID-19 learning loss, it is clear that math knowledge is the biggest area of loss for K-12 students since the start of the pandemic. Student learning gaps are rapidly expanding and there is an urgent need to support the retention of math skills now, more than ever.
Remote learning has caused particular issues for students from less advantaged communities. Regularly reported problems have included inequitable access to education technology, resources and support.
The need to help families support children in elementary math learning at home is essential. Research shows that parental involvement in children’s education leads to significantly increased confidence and ability in math. However, more than half of adults in Canada have inadequate numeracy skills, 1 in 5 Americans are considered ‘numerically illiterate’ and parents often lack the confidence to help their children with math independently.
Last spring, with support from the Laidlaw Foundation, JUMP Math developed and delivered a series of digital math learning exercises that families could do together to support and provide math learning at home. The aim of this pilot project was to provide quality math education to students and families in high-need communities, during the remote-learning period. Forty families were enlisted across the Greater Toronto area, with children in Grades 3-8 participating alongside the support of their parents/guardians.
“Our goal is to assist youth and parents from low-income communities in attaining their educational goals.” – Laidlaw Foundation
JUMP Math chose long division as the topic of focus, covering a significant portion of the Ontario curriculum for Grades 5 and 6. Long division was chosen above other math concepts, as multiple studies have shown that early achievement in long division is a strong predictor of concrete math ability later in life. Many educational researchers believe it is the hardest concept for young students to learn, because it draws on multiple concepts that require proficiency in every operation (division, addition, multiplication, and subtraction).
“Many educators now believe that algorithms such as long division are simply a series of rote rules that do not involve any “concepts”, our research shows this is simply not the case.” – John Mighton, JUMP Math Founder
Focusing on long division, JUMP Math created a series of interactive online lessons, culminating in questions that required students to use the long division exercises to test their comprehension. Support for parents/guardians to act as a ‘coach’ or ‘guide’ for their children as they completed the course was also provided, as well as short videos to provide context featuring local business operators and professionals explained how they use math in their everyday life.
Through the pilot, JUMP Math was able to successfully support students and their parents/guardians in using the online lessons to learn a complex math concept, without the help of a teacher. Over the course of 4 to 6 weeks, almost 60% of the students who enrolled in the course completed every lesson. Of those students, 70% got a perfect score on the final assessment. In total, 80% of students who completed the course were successful in achieving mastery of the long division exercises.
The pilot also reaffirmed the research that regular and active parent/guardian support at home helps students build confidence and ability in math. Parent/guardian responses showed a large increase in the confidence they felt in their own math abilities, which increased from 59% to 83%.
Parents/guardians also reported that the course increased student confidence in their math abilities, enjoyment of doing math and a greater understanding of how math is used in everyday life situations. Although the lessons were designed for use at home, they would be useful for teachers as well, as they can be used to rapidly close gaps in math learning while also improving educator confidence and skill.
With these successful results, JUMP Math is in discussion with Laidlaw Foundation to explore possible future applications of this digital resource, to assist students with catching up on learning loss.