There’s nothing virtual about student success through online math practice

There’s nothing virtual about student success through online math practice

New Jersey students count on IXL Learning to reinforce lessons and meet state standards

What a difference a year—and online math practice—can make. 

Cherry Hill, N.J. students who struggled with math in first grade mastered their second-grade work after piloting IXL Learning that year. 

“Students love it,” says Waleska Batista-Arias, the former district technology coach who returned to the classroom. “We’ve even had parents write us thank-you notes.”

Teachers credit IXL Learning with helping the second grade class complete its course work—two first-grade units went unfinished the prior year—as well as boosting special education students, all of whom had previously scored below the district standard for math in first grade. 

“It was amazing to have all but one second grader finish the entire math curriculum and meet the district standard! The one student who did not meet the standard missed it by only one point,’’ Batista-Arias says.

Today, IXL is in all K-5 classrooms in the 19,000-student Cherry Hill district, where Batista-Arias says teachers have seen improved concentration, cooperation, confidence, and proficiency. 

A comparison of school year 2007-08 with 2008-09, the year IXL was piloted for the second grade class, showed:

  • Special education student scores increased 27 percent—from an average score of 62 percent in Grade 1 to 79 percent in Grade 2.
  • The ELL students’ scores increased 46 percent—from 50 percent to 73 percent.
  • The at-risk students’ scores increased 19 percent—from 62 percent to 74 percent.
  • The 29-point achievement gap between special education and general education students was reduced to 9 points—a 20-point gain.
  • “We continue to see success,” Batista-Arias says. “Teachers are helping each other, and students are using IXL at home, even when it is not assigned.”

IXL is accessible from any computer, anywhere. Students log in and select a topic such as addition, fractions or geometry. Teachers can assign topics or amount of time to work, depending on the situation.

“If a student is struggling with reading charts and graphs, he would focus on that, while another student who has mastered charts and graphs would work on something else,’’ Batista-Arias explains. “It really helps in differentiating instruction for students.

“The questions are adaptive,” she adds. “If you keep getting answers correct, the questions will get harder. If you start getting them wrong, questions will drop down a level to reinforce skills you need to solve harder problems.”

Answers are explained so students can learn immediately where they went wrong. And teachers can access daily or weekly reports to see student progress and identify trouble spots. 

“We can see which questions students are getting wrong and why, so we know what we need to reteach or focus on; we are engaging in data-driven instruction,” Batista-Arias says. 

One issue identified by Cherry Hill was the inability of some students to read questions. IXL identified the need for an audio component, and as a result, added a feature that reads questions aloud for younger students. 

Another issue was lack of computers; however, the grant used to pilot the program was also able to finance five classroom computers arranged in a center, where students could take turns using IXL in school. 

As IXL moved to more classrooms, teachers embraced the technology. “Once everyone got comfortable and saw how easy it was, it was great,” she says.

IXL will be in Cherry Hill middle schools starting the 2012 school year, and the company also offers a high school component. 

To learn more about IXL Learning, please visit www.ixl.com.


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