“I love it because I can compete with others,” says a student at Highwood School.

“I like it because it is fun. You can play against your friends,” chimes in another.

“I love it because I can challenge myself,” another student adds.

No one would fault you for assuming these students are talking about the latest video game release, or maybe the newest sport being played at recess, though, you might be surprised to hear what they have to say next.

“It helps me do math faster,” one explains.

“It give me lots to practice,” says another.

“Mathletics is easy to interact with because they have a variety of subjects, educational games, and ways to push us students forward,” the first student adds again.

There it is: Mathletics!  It’s the new online subscription service that Highwood School has brought on board for all of its students to help them engage with math concepts, and other students, in new ways.

As a Mandarin bilingual school, over 60% of Highwood School’s population are English Language Learners which adds an extra level of complexity for students struggling with math concepts.  Math is a subject that many students find intimidating; this compounded with studying in a language that a student is still working to master can easily set an individual up for a lifelong fear and dislike of the subject.

The other layer of complexity that Highwood students work through is the commute that the majority of the student body makes each day.  The school is well-suited to the needs of its students, but long bus rides mean that they find it difficult to participate in meaningful and engaging extra curricular activities, which build relationships and strengthen the school community – not to mention enhance connections to learning for students.

Mathletics is a solution to both of these challenges. The online platform is accessible from anywhere, so as long as students have access to a computer or tablet they can log in to practice math solutions from school or at home. It encourages students to play games and watch math videos to earn credits and compete against their classmates in educational games which helps to build connections within the school, as students can remotely connect with each other to solve challenges and earn points as they work through different math problems.

While the Mathletics program is aligned with the Alberta provincial curriculum, funding for the program is not covered provincially. Staff at Highwood School approached donors through EducationMatters for support to fund the program subscription and provide access to Matheltics for the 353 students within the school, and it’s been a resounding success.

12 classes participated in a baseline mathematical skills assessment prior to the new subscription service launching. In a follow up assessment, after implementing the program, all classes showed a 5%-25% increase in their class average performance. The average increase in score on the follow up assessment across all classes was 11%.

The numbers speak volumes, but the students’ eagerness to use the program was the real standout. The opportunity to compete against other, earn achievement points, and play educational games had students jumping with excitement to play.

“They are more engaged in class activities as they have gained confidence demonstrating their math skills on Mathletics,” says a grade two teacher at the school. “I would say that students, on average, have improved steadily in their math skills.”

“I would love to have Mathletics as my sidekick for years to come,” another admits excitedly.

But it’s not just teachers and students who are in on the excitement; parents are joining in as well.

“Generally, I limit screen time,” says the parent of a grade one student in the school, “however, I do let my kids use Mathletics because I feel that it is a very good program.”

A parent of a grade two student at Highwood School feels a similar excitement. “My son likes to do math on Mathletics. Not like before, on paper, he didn’t like to do it at all.”

Excitement and math do not always go hand in hand. Seeing an improvement in math scores is certainly a positive sign, but more important is seeing eagerness in students to learn in new ways which has positive implications for all aspects of their learning.

Highwood School is currently evaluating how it will continue its use of Mathletics going forward, but one thing is for sure, if students, teachers, and parents all agree that something special is happening, then that is something we can call get excited about.