Friday, March 23, 2012

Dallas ISD to expand computer-based math program

A couple of friends have raved about a math program called Reasoning Mind.  Here's an email from one of them:


If you haven't heard of it, you should check out Reasoning Mind.  It's a system very much like Khan Academy, with the difference that (a) it's limited to math in earlier grades (elementary up thru the start of Algebra), and (b) the RM systems as a whole is a bit ahead of Khan Academy in logistical and curriculum sophistication.   It offers a complete curriculum replacement for grades 5 & 6, and soon will for all of 2-8 (which means no more books, no more workbooks, no more centrally planned curriculum, no need for as much curriculum planning overhead), and it's really a comprehensive approach to the classroom.  I think this is where Khan is headed, but he's not quite there yet (although he's moving there awfully fast).  The RM interface tends to be far more game oriented than Khan, which the students seem to respond quite well to.  And RM requires a tremendous amount of note taking / writing, which is helping build skills outside of mathematics. 


Anyway, Dallas ISD rolled this out to all 2nd graders during this 2011-2012 school year, and is committed to adding a grade a year moving forward.  Texas actually set aside money for RM statewide, and many districts are rolling it out.  Teachers have been giving it rave reviews, for all the same reasons folks like Khan (ie, for teachers:  it helps them individualize instruction; for districts:  it demands a bit less mathematics perfection from teachers; for taxpayers:  it might get better results at higher student:teacher ratios than the traditional classroom).  Student achievement data has been going up (but it's too soon to report results for Dallas).  But Reasoning Mind hasn't gotten nearly the national press that Khan has. 


I think we'll start work soon on a random controlled trial comparing RM to traditional instruction in 5th grade.  It'll take a couple years for those results to come up, but that'll mark the first real research on the effectiveness of outcomes for this blended model.  Until then, it'll be everybody's opinion chiming in either for or against this type of instruction.  So for the next couple of years we get to look forward to the same education usual suspects decrying this as hooey and an affront to children & teachers, or championing it as the savior of America's children & teachers.  Not really looking forward to that, but Dallas is charging forward given the information we have to date (which appears to me to be sufficient to warrant immediate action), until the research "settles" it.  Many, many bumps involved in implementing something like this at scale, as we're discovering in Dallas.  Everyone else in the country will know in a couple of years whether it was really worth it.


Some articles in our local paper for you:






3) [article below]



And if you're interested in what I believe will be the next generation (post RM/Khan) of thinking in the blended model, you should check out this video:


That will need a lot of packaging in order to be made actionable by school districts (ie, some non-profit or for-profit will have to figure out how to turn it into a curriculum that can be sold to districts).  But once it's done, my guess is that's the direction you'll see education go.


Here's an excerpt from the third article above (full text below):

Trading flashcards for keyboards and notepads for computer screens, second-graders are learning math differently in the at Dallas Independent School District.

Starting this school year, all second-graders are using a personalized computer-based math program called Reasoning Mind to supplement their regular math lessons. Next school year, district officials may nearly triple the number of students using the program by expanding it to the third and fourth grades. The hope, district officials say, is to boost test scores and better prepare students for algebra.

"We're looking for the silver bullet that's going to help us out. And right now, Reasoning Mind seems like it's the silver bullet for math," said Lew Blackburn, president of the DISD board of trustees.

Reasoning Mind, a Houston-based nonprofit organization, was founded and developed by Russian mathematician Alexander Khachatryan. Funded largely by Texas philanthropists, many from oil and energy backgrounds, the program has been adopted by 331 schools in eight states, according to Reasoning Mind. With about 14,000 second-grade students, Dallas ISD is its largest partner.


Dallas ISD to expand computer-based math program


David Woo/Staff Photographer

Michelle Kelley, a second-grader at Kleberg Elementary School, counted with her fingers as she worked math problems on a computer.





Staff Writer

Published: 19 December 2011 11:55 PM

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