Nysmith Blog

Learning Math the “New School” Way

A popular meme has been circulating around the internet. It pictures an illustration of a woman looking perplexed and the bubble above her head reads, “Well, another day has passed and I still didn’t use algebra once!” It’s no surprise that this meme has thousands of likes because so many of us can relate to feeling that math (at least the way we were taught math), seems to be useless in the real world. But that’s just it– if you have a child in elementary or middle school, chances are, you were taught math the “old school” way; through rote memorization, repetition, and endless worksheets. Besides being quite an uninspiring way to learn most anything, educational researchers have found that although concepts can be taught and performed in this way, this kind of learning is one-dimensional. Think of it this way: if a student can quickly fill out a multiplication worksheet, that doesn’t provide much information as to whether he or she actually understands multiplication conceptually. In order to provide students with a deep understanding of concepts, educators have to go further—providing real-world applications and opportunities for students to discover and explore concepts both through collaboration and individually.

Here at Nysmith, we’re always striving to provide our students with the most up-to-date and effective learning tools available. In the last few years, we decided that it was time to take a look at the way we were teaching math. Although we had overall student success with our previous program, it had been in place for over a decade and was no longer being supported with features like online accessibility. In addition, we were looking for a way to teach math that was true to the Nysmith philosophy of project-based, collaborative, and experiential learning. Our upper school math team began the search for a new and improved program with one overriding standard in mind—“find the best.” After months of active search, discussion, collaboration, and research, our team came back with the Carnegie Learning program.

Why Carnegie Learning (CL)? In short, CL ticked all the boxes. Based on decades of research by master math practitioners, cognitive and behavioral scientists, data scientists and science researchers, CL was developed as a student-centered approach to math–meant to teach the way students actually learn. Our team found that CL was in sync with our goals of incorporating more teamwork and collaboration into learning, increasing student engagement, and taking abstract concepts and giving them real-world applications. We found that CL understands that problem-solving is not just about getting the right answer, but how you get to the right answer. CL’s cutting-edge program gives students the opportunity to make sense of problems, consider different strategies that could lead to a solution, and finally, determine if their solution proves viable. Their program offers real-world tasks to help empower students to develop the problem-solving skills they will need beyond the classroom. In addition, CL has an online complement to its classroom learning. With Mathia, students get a 1-on-1 tutoring experience that provides real-time feedback, hints, step-by-step problems, a progress bar, and other tools to help students take ownership of and guide them through their mathematical progress.

Finally, CL is proven. In an independent study funded by the U.S. Department of Education and conducted by the RAND Corporation, CL’s blended approach nearly doubled growth in performance on standardized tests relative to typical students in the second year of implementation. In addition, EdReports.org ranked CL #1 in Blended Learning Math Solutions.

Once Nysmith made the decision to partner with Carnegie Learning, our math team had two full days of immersive training with the experts at CL. During training, teachers spent one whole day working (as students) through various lessons and units. The second day was spent learning and getting familiar with all of the teacher resources available with CL, including online professional development.

So, how can parents support the CL program at home with their children? That’s next in part 2 of the blog. (To be continued…)


For more information and to learn more about CL, click here to visit their website.


Additional Resources and Articles

Independent Research Shows Carnegie Learning Increases Algebra Learning

New Breed of Digital Tutors Yielding Learning Gains

Using Computers to Teach Math