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Study Shows Math Materials Have Impact in After-School Programs

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EdWeek just published a story I wrote about a federal study that shows math materials used in after-school programs had a notable impact on student learning while reading materials did not.

The math materials were developed by Harcourt School Publishers and the reading materials were created by the Success for All Foundation.

But as Robert Slavin, the chairman of the Success for All Foundation, pointed out to me, the findings could have more to do with the difficulty of demonstrating gains in reading in an after-school program than the quality of the materials.

Elizabeth J. Warner, the project officer for the report, which was commissioned by the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education, said that the researchers learned how carrying out instruction during an after-school program is different from doing so during the school day. "This experience suggested to us you have to be cognizant of the after-school setting," she told me in an interview, "These are people who come in at the end of the day. They don't have a lot of prep time."

From year one to year two of the study, the 27 after-school programs involved experienced a fair amount of turnover of both teachers and students.

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Interesting point from Robert Slavin there. You need, of course, to keep the conditions as close as possible for this to be an adequately controlled study, but the warm-up required for reading skills might not be said to apply to math skills, which can be learned in discrete, quick sessions.

We've found this with Math-Whizz, which teaches math using hundreds of individual exercises, much as Mathletics does, but in a sort of personalised e-tutor format.

The results of this study would be more reliable if the delivery methods were identical. We've found that there are more challenges with delivering English education in the same method we use for our math tutor; english doesn't lend itself so well to short, quantifiable, tests.

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