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KS3 Classroom Evaluation by Tom Sparrowhawk

General overview of the title
Mathletics is a website designed to support teaching and learning of Mathematics in an interactive and motivation manner. It is used worldwide and supports many of the curriculum areas typically studied in KS1-KS5. It can also be used to support numeracy.

The title is divided into two main areas: the Teachers area and Learners area, which can be accessed via specific logins.
The Teachers’ area can be used to control which aspects of the learner’s area they can access, thus controlling the activities they can attempt. It can also be used to monitor learners’ past and present (live) progress and scores. There are areas for planning curriculum activities and tasks which can be applied to specific classes, groups or even individual learners. The system is set up to issue awards (certificates – gold, silver, bronze) and credits that the learner can use to purchase items for their “avatar”. This can be monitored and controlled by the teacher.
The Learners’ area contains a wide range of different sections that are designed to assist the teaching and learning of an extensive range of Mathematical tasks including live Maths challenges against other learners from other parts of the world, targeted curriculum problems, support material, demonstrations and games. The general idea behind the title is to motivate learners to take part in challenges and curriculum learning to gain credits which can be turned into certificates, awards and the ability to spend credits to update their “avatar”.

How did you use the title with your class?
The title was evaluated with the help of two Year 8 classes. The classes are set: one was low ability (about 14 learners) and the other was upper middle (about 26 learners). The classes had access to the software once a week as part of their Maths lessons (60 minutes) for four weeks.
On each occasion the class were given one set task to complete and then allowed to use any aspect of Mathletics so that they could investigate what it could do. The evaluation was carried out towards the end of the summer term just after they had completed their end of year tests. The title was generally used to support areas of learning where classes tended to drop marks in their tests to see if improvements could be made.
The students were allowed to access the demonstrations themselves if required, but teachers could choose to use an interactive whiteboard to show them if they wish. The title was accessible from home via the internet. Learners were not encouraged or discouraged to do so, although many did, if only to have a go on Mathletics Live or to improve their Avatar.

Special Needs
There are no specific tools to support children with additional needs or the gifted and talented. However, a number of features of the title do make a difference to these groups of learners:
The curriculum can be designed to meet the needs of a class, year cohort or even an individual learner. The curriculum tasks or problems can be set at three different levels of ability and tasks from different year groups can be applied to any learner. Mathletics Live can be attempted at 5 different levels (controllable by the teacher) to meet the different needs of the more or less able.
A general improvement might be to get the demonstrations to talk to you – a verbal read-out any written information for low ability readers.

How your learners used the title
I told them that they had been chosen to evaluate some Maths software and that I had set them some controlled activities to complete and then they could investigate and use the software as they wished. I gave them very little help with accessing the different areas of the title and very little help with accessing support or demonstration sections.
All the learners were able to access the controlled activities and fully take part in them. To one or two of the lower ability learners I pointed out where they could get assistance with the task. After completing the set tasks they were all able to navigate the title and find different areas to investigate. Some found more areas than others, but none of them seemed to have any problems using the title to good effect. They appeared to be able to work independently and were motivated to find out what the title could do and how they could use it.

The teacher’s view of the title
In the time that I used this title it proved to be an effective tool to improve learners’ attitudes towards Maths and their motivation to learn and investigate Mathematical problems.
Used with careful planning I believe that this title will improve learners’ skills, knowledge and ability in Maths, especially in numerical skills and speed.
It is very easy for both teachers and learners to use. The teachers’ area contains a wide variety of tools which can be used to control classes, whole cohorts and even individual learners access to specific areas of the title and specific tasks which means individual learning programmes can be planned and delivered. It is very easy to monitor learners’ progress and look at past achievements and scores and even live scores and progress. The system will automatically issue credits, certificates and awards.
The pupils were very eager to use the title and enjoyed their learning experiences with the title. They especially enjoyed the live challenges against other learners in their class or from across the world and also the ability to spend their well-earned credits on updating their avatar.

Does the title offer value for money?
At present the title costs £6 for an annual licence for one user. There is a reduction of £199 for 8 users and generally the more users the cheaper the annual licence.
Having evaluated the software for learners in year 8 I believe that the title is good value for money if spent on this age range. I could see definite benefits for using the title with lower ability pupils or pupils with motivational issues.

What do your learners say about the title?
Selections of quotes from my learners include:
• This is great can we do it next lesson.
• Brilliant I have just gained 100 credits. I can upgrade my avatar now.
• This is more fun than normal Maths.
• It has increased my adding and taking away speed of calculation (lower ability pupil).
• I love playing challenges against other pupils in my class and it makes me want to win.
• I found the software very easy to use.
• Favourite bits are Mathletics live.
• The demos are easy to follow.
• I prefer doing the controlled learning on a computer rather in my maths book.
• It’s good that it instantly tells me if I got it right or wrong and gives me the answer.
• A more able pupil commented on the tasks being a bit repetitive.
• Also a less able pupil asked if I could get the demonstration to read out the words (he did, however, understand the tasks by just watching the demo).

Specific comment from the evaluator
The software has been designed with both the teacher and learner in mind. It is very easy to use and supports both the motivational needs of the pupil and organisational needs of the teacher (scores, examining improvement needs, setting specific learning programmes, giving simple demonstrations etc.).
The software is very impressive as a motivational tool, pushing the pupils on to improve their scores (knowledge and skills) to gain additional credits so that they can update their avatar or gain a higher certificate. I was also impressed with the wide range of curriculum activities available and how easy they were to assign to classes and individuals. All the pupils improved on their previous scores in the curriculum lead activities and on their speed in the mental maths activities using Mathletics Live.

A well thought out and easy to use title that makes learning fun and motivates pupils to make improvements in their Mathematical ability and application. It has been motivational for the lower ability pupils, although the majority of more able pupils definitely enjoyed using the title as well.
The linking of gaining credits so that learners can purchase updates and improvements to their avatar is a very good idea. The tasks, support and challenges are well designed, easy to access and use.
This could be used as a support tool for specific year groups, possibly the whole of KS3 or for pupils with poorer Maths skills, numeracy skills or with low motivation.