Who Owns the Learning? Using Data for Student Success

Written by Donna Boucher

Donna has been a teacher, math instructional coach, interventionist, and curriculum coordinator. A frequent speaker at state and national conferences, she shares her love for math with a worldwide audience through her website, Math Coach’s Corner. Donna is also the co-author of Guided Math Workshop.

We are inundated with data in today’s world.  It can, at times, be overwhelming.  But used correctly, data can be an important component of student success.

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In their book, Small Steps, Big Changes, authors Confer and Ramirez state that, “Part of the teacher’s task is to help students become intentional learners.” To support that task, they outline four steps educators should take:

  • convey the message over and over again that “Smart is not something you are; smart is something you get”: “It’s possible.”
  • explicitly help students become personally invested in their own learning until they understand that success will have a positive effect on their choices today, next year, and throughout their lives: “I want”
  • help students set achievable goals and track their own movement toward success:I can.”
  • share examples and stories from this class that illustrate the payoff of effort: “I will.”

Today I want to share an example of how one teacher at my school is putting this in action in her 3rd grade classroom.

A lack of fact fluency can be crippling for emerging mathematicians. Students who don’t understand number relationships struggle to use mathematics to solve problems, because they are using all of their mental energy on basic facts.  A strategy-based approach for learning facts leads to automaticity while at the same time it helps students understand how numbers are related.  But instruction needs to go hand-in-hand with practice to build speed and fluency.

Our district uses Scholastic’s FASTT Math program to provide engaging fact practice. Students can use the program in school and at home.  Scholastic’s data shows that students need to use FASTT Math three or more times per week to show the biggest gains. At our school, we have set a campus goal that each of our students in Grades 2-5 will use FASTT Math three or more times per week, and students can do two lessons per day.  The FASTT Math system provides teachers several reports to track student progress and activity.

Linda Vasquez, 3rd grade teacher at Morton Ranch Elementary in Katy, TX, has been sharing the FASTT Math data with her students in an effort to show them that practice pays off.  She came to me and asked if I could create some graphing sheets her students could use to track their data.  Working together, we designed a graph that students could use to graph both their usage and their mastery.

Each Monday, Linda projects student data from the previous seven days (students are encouraged to use the FASTT Math program on the weekend at home) for whole class viewing.  Students copy their data onto a recording sheet:

  • Time period: The prior seven day period (eg., 1/4/2015-1/10/2015)
  • Average Lessons per Week: Students can do two lessons per day, so the highest number possible is 14.  We designed the graph with a scale from 0 to 10+.
  • Fast Facts: A fact is considered a Fast Fact when the student can consistently solve it in 0.8 seconds or less. The number students record tells how many of the total facts are Fast Facts. For example, the Addition 0-9 module includes 100 possible facts.  The students record the number out of 100 that are Fast Facts.

After recording their data, students then graph the data on two different bar graphs.  For each week, the bar for Average Lessons Per Week is right above the bar for Fast Facts, with the idea being that students can see the relationship between lessons per week and fact mastery.  The students get so excited when they see their bars move! They are truly taking ownership of the data and their learning.  The FASTT Math graph is only one part of Linda’s overall own-the-learning plan.  We are now working together to develop student-friendly graphs for common assessments and learning standards.

Linda says it best: “Graphing their own progress has enabled my students to internalize their growth.  They willingly want to get on FASTT Math.  They are self-driven to reach or surpass the number of lessons they had the prior week, and they are extremely excited to see the report each Monday.  They now understand that practice results in growth.  The ones who didn’t see growth realize they must try harder.”

If you use FASTT Math in your classroom, you can download the graphing and recording sheets here.

How do you help students own their learning?  Please join in the conversation and share in the comments!

2 Comments

  1. TheElementary MathManiac

    Loved reading this! I think it is great when students do things like this because they are learning an important skill (graphing) in a context that is informative and motivating. Way to get to things done with one lesson!

    Tara
    The Math Maniac

    Reply
  2. Brandi

    That program sounds like Xtramath. We use it for math fact fluency and it is free! Love the idea of kiddos being in charge of their own learning.

    Brandi
    My Teacher Friend

    Reply

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