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Virginia Schools Pilot Blended Math Program

A grant funded by Cisco Systems is supporting implementation of a pilot that uses math games in Virginia to help raise math proficiency in that state. The Cisco Foundation is providing $250,000 to Mind Research Institute, an education non-profit, to make its ST Math programs available to 6,000 elementary and middle school students at 22 public schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2011, 54 percent of Virginia's students were at or below the level of proficiency in achievement for math.

MIND's math programs are available for all grade levels. The software uses visual, computer-based math games with no language, numbers, or symbols. This approach makes it useful for English language learners and students with learning disabilities to understand math concepts. The games feature a small puffin-like bird named JiJi who needs to get across an obstacle.

According to the program, students receive a mix of face-to-face instruction and use ST Math for 90 minutes weekly on the computer. During the more traditional instruction, the teachers help students make the connection between the math games and conventional math. Those teachers receive coaching on how to help students through challenging sections by getting them to verbalize their thinking.

"Our students deserve the best educational opportunities, including blended learning programs like ST Math," said Scott Brabrand, superintendent of Lynchburg City Schools, where schools are participating in the pilot. "We're grateful to community partners like Cisco and the state of Virginia for their support of using innovative methods to improve math performance."

Pilot schools were chosen in Virginia through an application process facilitated by the Virginia Department of Education and MIND. A similar program was launched by the Cisco Foundation and MIND in Arizona during 2011.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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