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Solution aims to transform math assessment

In school systems across the country, teachers are using handheld computers and a software solution from Wireless Generation, called mCLASS, to administer the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) to elementary-age students. The technique has helped boost students' reading scores dramatically. Now, the positive impact this approach has had on reading soon could be replicated in math.
Wireless Generation, along with the Teachers College at Columbia University and the University of Missouri-Columbia, recently received a four-year, $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences to develop a math-related version of mCLASS.
As with the company's reading solution, mCLASS Math would allow teachers to administer one-on-one assessments with K-3 students, while recording results and observations on a handheld computer. Teachers use the Palm-based software to guide themselves through the assessment process and record students' responses. Once an assessment is completed, teachers sync their handheld with their desktop or laptop computer to transfer the data to a secure web site, where they can examine the results almost instantly to inform their instruction.
"We find that little kids, starting in kindergarten and going through third grade, have very interesting ways of thinking about math, and teachers need to learn about that," Ginsburg said. Young learners, Ginsburg said, might have certain systemic ways of using strategies that can result in mistakes. "What teachers need to learn is that if a child gets a wrong answer, there may be a reason why, or a strategy behind it," he said.
This article apppeared in the October 17, 2007 edition of the e-school news online.
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