Category Archives: News

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Students Pick their Favorite Lessons

Did you ever wonder what your students thought about your lessons?

During the summer, we were fortunate to have six students from Minneapolis review our lessons. Our reviewers included one third-grade student, one sixth-grade student , one student entering ninth grade, two entering tenth grade and one entering eleventh grade. Why did we include high school students? Because they have been in middle and elementary school much more recently than us, and they were better able to express their opinions than the younger students. Plus, as anyone who has taught grades six through ten knows, they do NOT feel the obligation to tell you what you want to hear!

And the winners are …..

Third Grade

Introducing fractions –  This was my favorite because I like how it starts the kids off easy and explains to them what fractions are.

Introduction to Lakota/Dakota Oral Histories & Storytelling – third grade social studies and this was a good subject also i looked at the presentation it was great and i think kids will be interested 

(Yes, our office has a swing out front. Doesn’t yours?)

Fourth Grade

Ojibwe Clans and Migration – I like how it teaches the kids how to understand the relationship between human populations and the physical world. (Note that a bilingual version of this lesson is also available in Spanish and English here. )

Fifth Grade

Figurative language & poetry – It’s cool how they demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships and nuances in word meanings.

Introducing idioms – The reading and the video were both good. For fourth and fifth grade, that is a good subject to learn about so I think the lesson was something I would have liked in that grade.

Decimals, epidemics and fly vomit – I liked the presentation and the activity was fun. I thought the video was boring and I’d like the teacher to tell us a few facts about flies instead. I hate flies.

Sixth Grade

Making a Calendar with PowerPoint – it was a good video and a good lesson to learn. I like the background noise. The only suggestion I have is for a little more detail on different things you can do with PowerPoint when making a calendar.

Teach ratio with Math Snacks – It was a good lesson in  sixth grade mathematics. I really like how they broke it down for the children to understand and it was a nice video also.

After the funding is gone: We’re still here

Anyone who has worked in marginalized communities, especially in schools, is very familiar with the grant cycle. Something is funded, people are hired, everyone gets excited, progress is made and then the grant ends. What then? Too often, it is off to the new project and all the training, materials and efforts go to waste. With tens of thousands of students using Growing Math software, we couldn’t let that happen.

The Updates Happening Behind the Scenes

As part of the Growing Math project, we received evaluations from teachers of what they wanted improved and what was working. An issue mentioned many times was graphics. Students were using the games and videos on their phones at home and, with all of the different phone sizes, the text was not always large enough, or an image might overlap with text. This occurred mostly with the first games we had developed, when some of these smaller screen sizes didn’t exist or certainly were not being used by children in elementary school. (Remember when fifth-graders didn’t have phones?)

In the last month, we put a new version of Making Camp Ojibwe in the Play Store and the App Store and updated Making Camp Bilingual on the web. A new mobile version of Making Camp Bilingual and a web update of Making Camp Ojibwe will be out by the end of April. We are updating games in the order of the number of users, but our goal is to have an updated version of every game by the end of the year.

The maintenance you don’t see

Have you ever tried to download software or gone to a website for resources and it’s no longer there?

Think of software maintenance like a car. If you don’t change your oil or get new tires, your car will run for a while but eventually, it’s going to break down.

It’s not just that new screen sizes come out or new devices, like tablets. Software requirements also change. A few years ago, browsers started blocking autoplay. We get it, that’s annoying but that also meant when you went to one of our pages where a video automatically played, teaching about, say, the Ojibwe migration, that video no longer played. We made the needed changes BEFORE Chrome started blocking autoplay, so students could keep playing the games.

Without getting into the technical details, I’ll just say that behind the scenes changes are happening all the time. Either we think of a way to make the game load faster, or the powers-that-be decide that certain functions or features will no longer be supported and if we don’t change our code, it will eventually stop working.

New resources are coming …

We know educators are tired of having to come up with completely new lesson plans to incorporate the latest new, shiny thing rather than receiving support to build on what works. We do have three new games under development, one of which will be available very soon. We will get back to publishing new lessons and new units. First, though, we are making sure that what you have already included in your lesson plans stays up and running.

AnnMaria De Mars

March 16, 2023

Growing Math Continues with Foundation Support

What happens after grant funding ends? We’ve seen it happen time and time again on reservations and other under-served communities – a project starts, staff get trained, materials are developed, students are learning and engaged – and then the funding ends. Over two years, Growing Math training was attended by 1,375 teachers from 327 schools. Nearly 35,000 students used the online resources and almost 13,000 more had resources downloaded to be used offline.

We didn’t just look at the database, we also went out and visited classrooms, interviewed teachers in person, on zoom and read many, many pages of reviews from teachers. One of my favorite comments, to which I think many of us can relate

I really enjoy the program and what I have utilized with it these last two months. This is on me to not have used more because I know I could, but it is just a timing thing t… I enjoy the language and learning the culture of the games/lessons. … I have not used any reports and would like to do so, but it goes back to the time. I am a first year teacher in 6th grade teaching all the subjects, so my time is limited, if I want to sleep.

— A first-year teacher

An unanticipated result when we began the project was how much special education teachers would use Growing Math to provide individualized instruction for teachers. That became a request (because teachers are too polite to demand) from the very beginning and we have been adding suggestions for accommodations for students with learning differences, as time allows.

What do you do with a community built with grant funding when the funding ends?

I am sure you have guessed the answer by the title. As an educator, I am sure you learned those tricks about reading the title, skimming the headings and now here we are.

We have partnered with the Strong Mind Strong Body Foundation to continue providing lesson plans integrating Indigenous culture, mathematics and agricultural science. The Growing Math site and asynchronous training is here to stay and planning to grow. Stay tuned for much more to come.