Turn back the clock in your mind and place yourself in elementary school math class. Recall the flashcards and the memorization of multiplication tables. Think about stepping into the dreaded timed tests where you spit out every equation answer you’d so carefully memorized the night before with your parents testing you and crafting up ways for you to remember all the formulas. Now fast forward to 2019. Thanks to the DreamBox Learning program, math classes at West Fargo Public Schools don’t look like this anymore.
In 2016, West Fargo Public Schools introduced DreamBox to their Welcome Center—a special K–5 learning environment designed to help students new to the country with little or no English language skills. After success at the Welcome Center, DreamBox is now a part of all 13 of the district’s elementary schools.
DreamBox is an online K-8 math program, but it is not your typical math app. Within the program, a student enters a learning environment where they are welcomed into different activity areas and where they get to add customization with their own avatar and background music and then work to earn coins, badges and certificates.
West Fargo Public School District’s elementary math and science coordinator, Jill Leier, shared, “When students are working in DreamBox, the math that they are doing is all building the facility for them to use mental strategies.” Within the program, DreamBox’s virtual guide, Stella, walks students through visuals and how to approach math problems, but without a pencil and paper in hand. Leier noted that the program works to build mental math rather than procedural math, allowing the students to rely on what they know, rather than relying on pencil and paper right away.
DreamBox is designed to work with students, providing them a fun environment to learn in. Alongside the fun, the program collects data points and works with each student to ensure they are not getting too far ahead of their Zone of Proximal Development, which Leier describes as the line between when something is hard and challenging, but not so hard that the student gets frustrated and gives up. “One of the things that is so powerful about DreamBox is that in every DreamBox lesson, the software program itself gathers important data points on the student during the lesson,” said Leier, “It will gather data points on how many clicks the student uses (how they ask for help), how long they take to respond and how quickly they take to respond correctly or incorrectly.” Using these data points, the program adjusts so that it’s just on the cutting edge of the students learning.
One of the things that is so powerful about DreamBox is that in every DreamBox lesson, the software program itself gathers important data points on the student during the lesson.
There is a wide range of students with differing learning styles and ability levels in every classroom. While some students are further along, there are others who need more reinforcing. Leier painted the picture as being able to maximize time with each student, “If you have five students at your table receiving more reinforcement, you may have 20 students that now are working independently. We wanted to maximize the time that those students were not face-to-face with a teacher. Now, we can have many of those students doing DreamBox and having personalized learning and they’re growing and gaining math skills. If we didn’t have that, the students might not be as engaged in the math they are doing independently.”
West Fargo Public Schools has over 900 English Language Learners (ELLs) and there are over 50 different languages spoken by students enrolled across the district. Thanks to adaptive programs such as DreamBox, these students from all different backgrounds can learn at a pace that’s best for them and can build confidence in their abilities.
West Fargo Public Schools Fast Facts
The district serves 19 schools: 1 preschool center, 13 elementary, 2 middle schools and 3 high schools
English Language Learners (ELL): 913
Languages Spoken by WFPS students: 57