A group of school teachers in Utah are testing out some new math software today that they’ll be using in the classroom this year. It’s part of a new pilot program state lawmakers set in motion aimed at helping students master topics in science, technology, engineering and math or STEM.
Allison Duncan and Neiko Gilgen are math teachers in the Canyons school district. They’re getting trained on a program called Think Through Math, an adaptive web-based software that helps students who are struggling in the subject. Duncan says its personalized learning for students who, given Utah’s large class sizes, may not get the attention otherwise.
“It does a lot of things that teachers used to have to do by themselves and they just don’t have time," Duncan says."It tracks the kid. It monitors the kid. It tracks their progress. You can run reports. So it’s not just ‘get on and do math problems’. The program does a lot more.”
Canyons School District is one of about 65 Utah schools chosen to participate in the pilot program. Several companies agreed to allow select schools to test their math software for free. The cost of the software ranges from $1 per student to $50,000 per teacher. Depending on the success of the programs in the first year, the Utah legislature has set aside $10 million, to purchase the software packages that offer the best results.
Meredith Mannebach manages Utah’s newly created STEM Action Center, which helped choose the programs.
“The STEM Action Center really is going to be the vetter of best practices for the state of Utah in STEM," Mannebach says. "Next step is we want to look at science out there. We want to look at technology and engineering and find the best practices and what’s happening in education and bring them to the state.”
Students using the software will be tested using built-in exams. The data will be presented to the state legislature this December, before lawmakers convene for the 2014 legislative session.
State assessments aren’t administered until the spring.