A computerized math program is producing dramatic gains among students at one of Greenville County’s struggling middle schools.
Using the I CAN Learn math lab, developed and marketed by JRL Enterprises of New Orleans, students at Tanglewood Middle have learned twice as much in three months, on average, as middle school students usually learn in a year, according to Principal Dennis Dotterer.
“Statistically speaking, it blows the average away,” he said.
On a test called Measuring Academic Progress, the typical sixth-grader gains four to five points from the time they take the test in the fall until they take it again in the spring, Dotterer said.
The average growth among students using I CAN Learn Math was 10 points, he said.
In the program, each student has a computer and headphones, with the monitor embedded beneath a glass desktop to allow them to take notes as they work.
It uses real life examples, videos and multiple-choice quizzes that allow students to progress at their own pace. The teacher monitors each computer from her own and works with students individually and in small groups as problems arise.
“I can’t think of a student in here who wants to go back to the old way of doing math,” said teacher Jennifer Driscoll.
The program is effective because it approaches various styles of learning: students hear, see and write what they’re being taught.
Dotterer said he hopes the program will help his school’s scores on the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test, which have put the school in “restructuring” status because of its failing to make adequate yearly progress as determined by the federal No Child Left Behind law.
John Lee, president of JRL Enterprises, the company that developed and markets the math lab, said he and his partner based the program on what they learned by observing teachers who were effective in helping at-risk and minority inner-city children in New Orleans.
“It’s just simply taking good pedagogy from the teachers and capturing it into a format that the MTV generation and Nintendo generation enjoys,” he said.
In testing the program at an all-black high school, students were learning 53 percent faster and retaining 38 percent more of what they learned, he said.
The I CAN program, which stands for Interactive Computer Aided Natural learning, is now being used by about 150,000 students at more than 500 schools in at least 30 states, although only a handful have been installed in South Carolina schools, Lee said.