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DreamBox enhances kids math skills

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Posted: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 3:36 pm

Body Camp Elementary first grade student Madelyn Foutz pings an orange ball into a tiny box on the iPad screen in front of her. The game counts the number of orange balls in the square to add up to a specific total.

“I like this one, it’s called pack 19,” Foutz exclaims.

“Pack 19” is just one game that students can choose in the DreamBox software package that Body Camp is integrating into its math curriculum.

Body Camp began using the interactive game program at the beginning of the 2013-2014 academic year. Students in kindergarten to fifth grade take turns sharpening their arithmetic skills rotating in the computer lab two to three times a week or toggle on the mobile iPads.

Susan Lyle, a third grade instructor at Body Camp, is impressed with the results of this experiment because it adds another dimension to the educational experience.

“This allows you to give a real personalized feel,” Lyle said. “It allows them to work on the skills until they master them.”

Furthermore, Lyle adds, students who progress more quickly through the curriculum can tackle more challenging math problems. The software does not replace traditional classroom instruction. Teachers at Body Camp are still required to give classroom lessons and assign homework. DreamBox is individualized according to the student’s needs. A green or yellow bar moves across the screen to indicate a student’s progress. At the end of each lesson, progress reports are given to the faculty to measure where students are in the process.

Making math fun was one reason Body Camp chose the software.

Scott Graham, the principal of Body Camp Elementary, researched options over the summer for ways to improve Body Camp’s low Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores in mathematics. From all the programs he examined, DreamBox was the most engaging.

“It looks like a game environment and the kids have a goal to work towards,” Graham said.

For the last three years, children at Body Camp used a reading computer program called iStation, so the school had success with personalized lessons.

From Graham’s perspective, iStation assessed the students too much, making it onerous. DreamBox made the assessment process easier. He admits that DreamBox comes with a hefty price tag of $25 per student for a year’s subscription. However, Graham says that price includes access for all students at school and online accounts for students to play from the program at home.

“We don’t assign it as homework but it’s an option,” Lyle said.

Students appear to enjoy the program. As they play, DreamBox rewards them with coins to trade in for chances to explore extra virtual carnival games or listen to music during their work sessions.

Inside the computer lab where Lyle’s third grade class attentively plays their math games, all the students have ear buds in listening to instructions or music on the game. One of the students, Josh Ransome likes the music associated with the program, but its only generic computer jams like “numb3rs.”

Ransome gets excited when talking about picking wallpaper, or an avatar, although he admits to only having 317 tokens. His highest is 12,500 tokens. Ransome enjoys having the game as a chance to break up the banality of a normal math lesson.

“This way, you’re not sitting behind a desk all day with a pencil,” Ransome said.

Some students, while they like the game, think it can get tedious. The noises also get bothersome.

“It’s kind of annoying,” noted Leah Adkins, a first grade Body Camp student.

Still, Graham believes the Body Camp student body is seeing results from the progress reports. The real test will be how the school performs on the SOLs in May. Even if there’s a poor showing, Graham will not ditch the program immediately. He wants to give it time to work.

“We need to keep implementing it for a few years because I’m not sure any program is going to fix a problem after one year of use,” Graham said.


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