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ASSISTments: Enhancing Tutoring to Meet Math Needs of all Students

At ASSISTments, one of our primary goals is to research and develop innovative technologies and practices that can help improve student learning while also leaving a lasting impact on student success. To support our goals, we are currently researching the effects of high-dosage tutoring that is directly aligned to classroom instruction through multiple school-based pilots.

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The ASSISTments Foundation Awarded $250,000 to Develop and Scale High-Impact Tutoring Models to Boost Academic Achievement for All Students

ASSISTments, a nonprofit organization founded in learning-science, recently announced it has been awarded $250,000 in competitive grant funding to pilot an innovative tutoring program in Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools) across 30 schools, reaching 800 underserved students in grades 3-8. The ASSISTments Tutoring pilot will research the effects of high-dosage, proactive school-based tutoring that is directly connected to classroom instruction.

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5 Practices that Support an Equitable and Inclusive Math Classroom

Think about what it was like to enter a classroom and try to learn when you were a kid.  Was it welcoming?  Did you feel safe?  Did you feel comfortable learning and growing there?  The kind of experience each student in your classroom has is largely dependent on their answers to these questions.  But creating an equitable and inclusive learning environment in which all students are supported in their learning and have an equal opportunity for success can be challenging.  Teachers have a lot on their plates, and intentionally planning for equity and inclusion can get lost between grading, lesson planning, and  the plethora of other things that come up each day. For this reason, we wanted to develop clearer guidance for our teacher users on how to embed practices that support equity and inclusion into your every day use of ASSISTments.

The ‘Classroom Practices for Equity and Inclusion:  A Guide for ASSISTments Teachers’, highlights specific practices aligned to the 5 principles within the framework provided in The Impact of Identity in K-8 Mathematics Teaching: Rethinking Equity-Based Practices (Aguirre et al). Below we wanted to highlight 5 such practices that we believe are both high leverage and manageable for the busy teacher. 

Practice 1: Use ASSISTments Data to Facilitate Student Math Discussions.  

We recommend using ASSISTments data to facilitate math discussions in which students analyze different responses and compare solutions.  Using the framework provided by “5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Math Discussions” will help you center student’s different solution strategies to generate high quality discussions that move students toward mastery.  An example activity is ‘My Favorite No’, which incorporates student data from ASSISTments to guide class discussions based on student data from ASSISTments.  

Incorporating this practice in your classroom, “supports students in analyzing, comparing, justifying, and proving their solutions…engages students in frequent debates…[and] presents tasks that have high cognitive demand and include multiple solution strategies and representations” in alignment with the equity and inclusion principle “Going deep with mathematics” (Aguirre et al).  

Practice 2: Have students show their strategies and thinking, not just the solution.  

Teachers can also support students in “Going deep with mathematics” (Aguirre et al) by establishing a pencil and paper routine that facilitates students showing their work and thinking.  One way you can do this is by providing students with a reflection sheet similar to this one created by 7th Grade math teacher Kim Hall.  This makes student thinking visible so that teachers can identify different strategies and representations that students are using to answer problems and support discussions in which students identify the strengths of each others’ approaches to problem solving.

Practice 3:  Provide students with varying knowledge and skills with time to collaborate together as they complete problems.

Facilitating collaboration between students with varying knowledge and skills supports the equity and inclusion principle, “Leveraging multiple mathematics competencies” by providing students with “multiple entry points to…engage with a problem and make valuable contributions” (Aguirre et al).  Check out this video for a real classroom example of how students can collaborate and discuss problems as they work in ASSISTments.  

Practice 4:  Give careful thought to how you message the purpose of ASSISTments and how the data is used.  

Prior to assigning work in ASSISTments, make clear ‘ASSISTments is here to help us build confidence and fluency with key math concepts without penalty because mistakes are part of the learning process’ or ‘ASSISTments generates scores, not grades, which help me as the teacher best support you in the learning process.’  Key messages like these, “..promote student persistence and reasoning during problem solving,” and “assume that mistakes and incorrect answers are a source of learning”. This aligns to the equity and inclusion principle of “Affirming mathematics learners’ identities” (Aguirre et al).  

Practice 5:  Plan high leverage interventions and scaffolds that build a bridge to new math learning.  

We recommend that teachers assign diagnostics and pre-assessments in ASSISTments to plan timely and high leverage interventions and scaffolds that build a bridge to new learning.  This allows teachers to use,, “...previous mathematics knowledge as a bridge to promote new mathematics understanding” in alignment with, “Drawing on multiple resources of knowledge,” by giving teachers the data they need to make explicit connections between prior and new student learning (Aguirre et al).   Click here to learn more about the diagnostics and assessments we offer via ASSISTments.   

Creating and sustaining an equitable and inclusive classroom environment can be challenging.  It requires constant work and reflection, which can be difficult given the many other things teachers must do on a daily basis.  By leveraging ASSISTments with students in the right ways, you will not only enhance your classrooms with immediate student feedback and actionable data, but also provide an equitable and inclusive environment that supports growth among all of your students.