Math Innovation

Since the launch of Alliance’s All Means All initiative in 2018, math intervention has been a substantial piece of the planning arc to ensure every scholar has equitable access to resources needed to meet their full academic and life potential.

One major issue facing math intervention implementation was that the widely-used math curriculum (Open Up Resources) didn’t provide differentiated materials for scholars at various levels of mastery, so intervention teachers were using their limited time and energy to plan individualized lessons and create resources on their own.

This challenge led Lindsay Uribe, Math Design Manager, to interview multiple school districts, CMOs, and members of Alliance to determine any commonalities and measures of success in creating a math intervention program. After reviewing multiple curricula options, Ms. Uribe proposed three options to all intervention teachers and supporting administrators to evaluate and select. The Freckle by Renaissance platform became the clear frontrunner.

In January 2020, a committee was formed––including Ms. Uribe, Jesse Melgares (former Mathematics Director), Noah Mackert (Director of Academic Intervention), Austin Colberg (Assistant Principal, Alliance Smidt Tech High School), Emily Finney (School Director of Instruction, Alliance PBS HSA High School), Guillermo Lopez (Alliance Burton Tech High School Math Instructional Coach), James Leon (Alliance Marine High School Math Teacher ), and Saundré Scott (Alliance O’Donovan Middle Academy Math Instructional Lead and Intervention Teacher)––to determine how Freckle could assist with the math intervention goals of assessing a scholar’s level of understanding for a particular math standard, focusing on mastery of that standard, and then advancing to the next level.

It became clear that Freckle would be part of the comprehensive solution to math differentiation. “We did not want to solely rely on an online system,” explained Ms. Scott. Instead, the committee created an idea of “centers” that incorporate multiple elements of learning––including hands-on activities, academic discourse, and small-group instruction––in addition to their individualized, online Freckle lessons.

Ms. Uribe believes that teachers and administrators chose Freckle for a number of reasons. The program not only differentiates what scholars learn in an adaptive way, but also how they learn to best meet their needs (e.g., instructional videos, real-world lessons, digital flashcards, online and tangible learning materials). Additionally, Freckle allows for diagnostic pre-testing of “bite-sized components,” according to Ms. Scott, so that scholars who may already have an aversion to math aren’t bombarded with a massive amount of testing on multiple math standards. The real-time dashboards assist with reteaching plans, as well. Ms. Scott also appreciated the fun, celebratory experience built into the program. “Kids need joy in the classroom and need to be able to celebrate their accomplishments,” she said. And an unexpected benefit of Freckle has been the ease of use during Distance Learning.

So far, Ms. Scott is very pleased with Freckle’s results, based on scholar growth both within the Freckle program and analysis done during Alliance’s recent Data Day (October 12). Anecdotally, she has also seen heightened excitement from scholars when they reach another level in the program, which is a great success for scholars who may have previously experienced a distaste for math.

In her reporting, Ms. Scott typically reviews scholar subgroup data including English learners and scholars with disabilities. For the first time this year, she is also dissecting the data to review Black and African American scholar performance. She explained that the desire to specifically review Black and African American scholar data came out of the Alliance forums held for Black and African American scholars, families, and staff in June. She noted that the importance of looking at subsets of data is “so it can improve. When we don’t look at the data, it can be at a standstill.”

One of her missions as a teacher is to inform her Black and African American scholars that their lower scores are not an indication of their intelligence, but rather a repercussion of generations of systemic racism and educational inequities. “As years have gone by, we have forgotten that African Americans are some of the best mathematicians out there. Every child is different and we need to identify with scholars, differentiate instruction, factor in trauma, create links to real-world math scenarios, and most importantly, make math fun,” she added.

As part of the pilot program, Freckle has been rolled out to nine schools this school year––including Alliance MIT, ACRMA 12, Alliance Richard Merkin Middle School, ACRMA 8, Alliance PBS-HSA, Alliance Baxter High School, Alliance Burton Tech High School, and Alliance Neuwirth High School––the success of the program before implementing across Alliance. Ms. Scott believes that core math teachers can also use Freckle within their classrooms, even if they don’t have an interventionist, adding that “a lot of times, we as educators forget to differentiate instruction. But I find that if you do that, the data will improve. I’ve seen it happen and I know all scholars are capable.”