How Melissa Prepared Her Kids for a Competitive, Math-Focused Future

How Melissa Prepared Her Kids for a Competitive, Math-Focused Future

We live in a globalized world, where our kids will increasingly face competition with their international peers.


Melissa, a gymnastics coach, is a competitive person by nature. And when it comes to her daughters, she wants to prepare them for the competitive workforce they’ll face one day.


When U.S. students and adult workers are compared to their international peers, studies continue to show American deficiencies in numeracy.


Numeracy can be described as “the ability to access, use, interpret and communicate mathematical information and ideas,” as defined by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).


In 2012 and 2014, 63 million U.S. adults ages 16-65 had low numeracy skills. 


Numeracy skills impact your ability “to engage in and manage the mathematical demands of a range of situations in adult life,” according to the PIACC.


Those adult life situations include qualifying for well-paying jobs. “The relationship between numeracy skills and wages is particularly strong in the United States,” according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).


As a single mom, “it’s hard to provide all that I want to give [my daughters],” says Melissa, noting that she struggles most with “providing solid instruction.”


With a single income, she can’t afford more expensive options like tutors or specialized programs. She relies mostly on Facebook groups to help her find teaching tips. 


Eight-year-old Emerson and 6-year-old Isabella are “amazing in every way and they love to learn,” says Melissa. 


So her struggle isn’t necessarily getting them interested in learning, but making sure their learning path is strong and comprehensive.


Challenges

When Melissa watches the summer Olympics, she’s used to seeing the U.S. women’s team on the podium alongside powerhouses like Russia and China.


But if the U.S. were competing in a numeracy Olympics, we wouldn’t be anywhere near the podium. 


According to the OECD’s 2013 study, the average of our numeracy scores would place us alongside France and slightly higher than Italy and Spain.


The OECD found that “the U.S. has proportionately more people with weak skills than some other countries and fewer people with strong skills.”


Our literacy scores are “weak,” our numeracy scores are “very poor,” and our problem-solving scores in technology-rich environments are “only a little worse than average.”


But Americans answered this call to action. 


In light of the OECD study, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Vocational and Adult Education investigated the reasons why we continue to lag behind our international peers.


It’s no surprise that the problem begins with our education system, which is “not doing enough to help adults compete in the global marketplace.”


“There is little evidence of any sustained improvement in the basic skills acquired at school — results have been stable over the last decade in reading and math, with some improvement in science.


“The skills of young people are little different from those of their parents.


“Adults who have trouble reading, doing math, solving problems, and using technology will find the doors of the 21st-century workforce closed to them.”


These findings might make you simultaneously frustrated and relieved. It’s frustrating knowing that such a technology-rich, highly educated society isn’t preparing kids for 21st-century demands.


But you might be relieved to know that your frustrations with your child’s school are not entirely unfounded.


Whether you’re homeschooling full-time or trying to supplement a math curriculum at school, Elephant Learning is the powerful math teaching tool you need for your kids.


Finding Elephant Learning

Elephant Learning is designed to help kids — ages 2-16 — learn math concepts through math games.


Math educators and researchers designed these math games using best practices that have demonstrated significant, lasting math success.


That research-based game design is reassuring to single moms like Melissa. She knows she can rely on Elephant Learning to cover topics she might inadvertently overlook.


It can be hard to assess whether your child has truly mastered a math concept. 


Sometimes an adept memorizer can look like a math whiz, until they have to apply a math concept to an unfamiliar scenario.


Your child might have memorized that 10 times 10 equals 100. But if you show them a building with 10 floors and 10 windows on each floor, can they automatically tell you how many rooms are in the building?


These are the subtle nuances that Elephant Learning tackles to make sure your child truly understands a concept.


But rather than staring at a boring building, your kids manipulate fun animated objects that range from the familiar (like bunnies and strawberries) to the fantastical (like mermaids and dragons).


Variety is key to keep kids engaged, so the games adjust to use age-appropriate items. If a child gets frustrated with a game, they can skip it and try another game.


Behind the scenes, Elephant Learning is tracking their progress. It adjusts the difficulty level of the games to meet your child at their comfort level.


It will only introduce new material after it determines that your child has mastered a math concept.


Elephant Learning gives parents key insights into their child’s progress. Data visualization features make it easy to see which topics are challenging.


If a child is struggling with a math concept, Elephant Learning breaks down the reasons why they’re likely struggling. 


And, it offers parents coaching tips on how to help their child, and game ideas to play to reinforce those concepts.


Elephant Learning takes the guesswork out of teaching your kids. For single parents like Melissa, it spares her unnecessary hours scouring the internet for help.


She has accurate data for each of her daughters at her fingertips. 


The $35 monthly fee that gives her daughters unlimited playtime also makes it both affordable and reliable for the long-term.


But most importantly, Elephant Learning is giving her daughters dramatic math skill improvements and lasting concept mastery.


Related: The Real Reason Math Curriculum is Failing Your Child


Emerson’s Experience With Elephant Learning

Eight-year-old Emerson has learned over a year’s worth of math in six months. And she only has to average 30 minutes of playtime each week to continue improving.


When she began her math games, the Elephant Learning program determined that she did best playing at a 6-year-old’s level. As Emerson played, she built her confidence solving a variety of puzzles.


Now the concepts have become more challenging, but Emerson continues to improve. In fact, she’s almost reached the level she needs to be as an 8-year-old.


Elephant Learning has determined that she needs extra help manipulating base groups of 10.


This skill is an important foundation for future concepts like equations and algorithms, which are based on the representation of numbers within the base 10 system.


Without prior knowledge, when a child sees 13, they will typically say it is "one - three" rather than "thirteen.”


When children start exploring the teens in kindergarten, they learn to arrange the objects in a group of 10. When they are more familiar with organizing objects this way, they start to see a group of 10 as a unit: "a ten." 

It typically takes an average student until first grade to begin realizing this concept. After Emerson achieves this step, it is a major milestone. Emerson will use the new unit to understand the structure of bigger numbers.

If Melissa wants to help Emerson with her base 10’s, Elephant Learning suggests playing place-value bingo and provides instructions on how to play.

 

Isabella’s Experience With Elephant Learning

Six-year-old Isabella began playing games at a 5-year-old’s level. But after six months, she’s not far behind her older sister in her math abilities — she’s mastered almost 3 years of math skills.


Her current challenge is decomposing numbers  — seeing numbers as a sum of smaller numbers.


She can decompose small numbers and can solve addition and subtraction problems up to 20. Because of this, Elephant Learning has determined that she’s ready for some puzzles.

Puzzles will teach Isabella more advanced problem-solving strategies. 

For example, Elephant Learning shows Isabella that she has 3 whales. Her goal is to make 17 whales, so she’s asked “How many more whales do we need?” Isabella may reason like this: "I need 4 more to get 7 whales and then I need 10 more to get 17. I need 14 more whales."

To reinforce this concept offline, Melissa can play a decompose numbers game with Isabella using a deck of cards. Elephant Learning gives Melissa playing instructions and tips for coaching Isabella as they play.

Both girls are on a path towards lasting math confidence they can carry throughout their lives. It’s never too early or too late to start your kids on the same path.

Related: How Math Determines Your Child’s Overall Success


Emerson’s Results: 

  • Age: 8.1
  • Starting Elephant Learning Age: 6.2
  • Current Elephant Learning Age: 7.8
  • The difference after six months: 1.6


Isabella’s Results: 

  • Age: 6.4
  • Starting Elephant Learning Age: 4.9
  • Current Elephant Learning Age: 7.6
  • The difference after six months: 2.7


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