Friday, June 13, 2014

Dreambox - A Fun Option for Summer Math Learning

The words “summer vacation” don’t conjure up images of math remediation in most kids’ minds. But for those who struggled during the school year, ceasing math instruction completely during the summer is risky. Many kids need continued exposure to math to maintain what they know and maybe even gain some ground. At the Yellin Center, we’re firm believers that kids need lots of unstructured time to be, well, kids during the summer, however. So how to strike a balance? Dreambox may be the answer for some families.

Dreambox is a web-based math software package that provides math instruction in the form of games. But there’s serious research behind the fun. The skills taught are carefully sequenced and the program is able to continually assess users, allowing students to progress at their own rate. Based on answers the student enters, the program identifies and remediates areas of demonstrated need.

One important thing to note about Dreambox is that parents cannot dictate what specific skills the program will teach. In other words, there is no way to force the program to align with student’s classroom curriculum. Instead, Dreambox will identify gaps in learning that may have gone undetected in previous instruction and remediate those areas. This capability is what makes Dreambox such an ideal tool for summer. Math is a very cumulative subject, so often a child struggling with a particular concept today is actually demonstrating a weak understanding of skills learned last year. The software will fill holes in a student’s understanding and provide him with a solid platform from which to begin next year’s math learning.

Because the program is fun, parents won’t need to beg and plead to persuade kids to spend twenty minutes playing a few times a week. And families on the go can even download the Dreambox app to keep learning via tablets and smartphones. Dreambox may even be appropriate for the future mathematician in the house; it can give her a taste of more advanced material if she whizzes through all the more basic lessons.

Although kids won’t need adult support to use Dreambox, the Parent Dashboard allows parents to stay in the loop by monitoring their kids’ progress. Dreambox will target weak areas, of course, but information about what skills still need work may be useful to teachers at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.

Visit the Dreambox homepagefor more information. The program is available for whole-school use, but the “Getting Started” tab provides pricing and information about purchasing subscription for a single child or just a few kids. A free 14-day trial is also available for those who want to take the program for a spin.

No software program we’ve seen can take the place of a skilled, intuitive instructor. But for families strapped for cash or kids who need just a boost or a platform for maintaining their skills, Dreambox could be an excellent solution.

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