Last year, our district purchased TenMarks. TenMarks is a math program that directly aligns to Common Core and provides students and teachers with math practice that is easily differentiated. Watch a video to learn more here. I was originally upset because they did not renew our contract with Reflex, which I found to be very effective in helping students learn their math facts. My students loved Reflex because it was more like a game than a math assignment. TenMarks is definitely not as engaging, but it is a great program that challenges students to be literate in mathematics.
It was a very rocky start with TenMarks last year. On the first day we logged on, I had two students in tears and others who were extremely frustrated and ready to give up. This made me also frustrated and ready to give up, and many teachers did give up after one session. The younger grades tried with their students and quickly claimed that it was too difficult because students are not used to using advanced math vocabulary. My students had a difficult time adjusting to so much reading during math. Example:
They also had a difficult time learning all the different formats of the questions. Some questions are short answer, some are multiple choice, some are multiple choice with several answers that apply, etc. Examples:
I like the different formats because students cannot just click through and guess the multiple choice questions. They also have great support to help students work independently. Students can get hints, have the question read aloud to them, and it provides a detailed explanation if the student misses a question. I love the immediate feedback students and teachers receive from this program. It gives teachers the “top 3 most common mistakes” for each assignment, which really helps me pinpoint the concept or type of question with which they are having difficulty.
Despite the difficulty and tears, we stuck with it, and they began to grow and gain confidence with more exposure. Now, I am a huge advocate for TenMarks and use it weekly to practice and reinforce what we are learning in math. This program does a great job supporting disciplinary literacy because students have to learn relevant math vocabulary to be successful in the program. I also like that it gives them exposure to the format they will see on the End-of-Grade and Benchmark tests. These tests definitely require students to be literate mathematicians with a strong understanding of vocabulary.
This year, my students are still adjusting to the advanced vocabulary and format, but I have a better understanding of the program and know its’ benefits. We are adjusting much faster than my class did last year. Our Case 21 Benchmark assessments this year will be online, so the more practice students get with answering questions online, the better. This will be a big change for students and teachers. Many teachers are worried the data will not be accurate if students do not understand how to take an assessment online and click through the answers. However, I think students and teachers should be utilizing our new Chromebooks and the online programs available, like TenMarks, so students should understand how to use scratch paper and then enter their answers on the computer. The students who will click through and not try are the same students who would carelessly bubble on a paper test.
This class is making me appreciate the great programs, like Project Leap and TenMarks, that Orange County Schools offers to teachers and students for disciplinary literacy in math. I hope more teachers will utilize TenMarks, so all of our students can be literate mathematicians!