Math program at Willis producing impressive results

« Back  |  

This was originally published on the website

A program that was started to help close the learning gap caused by the pandemic is working so well at Willis Junior High School, the principal wants to expand it.

Arizona State University Prep Digital and the state Department of Education came up with the Math Momentum partnership. It was originally expected to last for three years and cost $9 million.

Willis teachers started using the program last school year and say they’ve already seen significant results. As part of the program, each student is required to take three assessments each year.

“So, 14% of students have closed gaps in 10 weeks,” said Sarah Wiese, a pre-algebra teacher at Willis. “I would say maybe of my 80 to 90 kids in there, only one or two didn’t show any sort of growth between August and Thanksgiving.”

Math Momentum is essentially inviting a second teacher into the classroom for more individualized learning. Wiese teaches her pre-algebra class with Jennifer Cooke, who lives in Montana and works for ASU Prep Digital.

After an introductory period of the class, students break up into three groups: Four work with Cooke online in a Zoom classroom. Four work directly with Wiese. And the rest, maybe 10 or so, work on their own. After 15 minutes or so, they switch.

Wiese said the students who do not need as much individualized attention and have passed all the requirements for whatever lesson they are working on, are given more fun things to do. The students who feel they could use some additional help will often sit in her group.

“The reason I’m talking to you, and the reason I was talking to my superintendent, and the reason I will talk to anybody about this is this model is not limited to grant money,” Wiese said. “I think this model is something that you could implement outside of the math subject area and is very feasible and doable.”

Her principal is on board.

“The most effective thing that happens is that they’re continually assessing kids,” Principal Jeff Delp said. “And so through that assessment piece, they have data to see where specifically kids are struggling, and then they’ll group kids based upon what they need.”

“And so we’ve seen some dramatic shifts in terms of gains that kids are making and growth that are that kids are making, just because of that targeted approach.”