Springing Forward After an Unprecedented Fall: Triumphs and Lessons Learned from 2020

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As we look ahead, we look forward to continuing to be inspired by the dedication of teachers to meet the needs of their students, no matter the circumstances. This post focuses on what great math teachers do, and how ASSISTments fits in.

This past fall was like no other in the history of education in the United States. It was one in which teachers, students, parents, school and district administrators, and all those involved in the “village” of educating children faced uncertainty, took steps into the unknown, and struggled. It was also a time of incredible resilience, and I was inspired by our ASSISTments teacher community’s ongoing commitment to learning, furthering their practice, and taking on leadership roles to support other teachers.

It was this energy that allowed ASSISTments to have a Fall like no other in terms of our teacher reach and programming. Over 18,000 teachers have assigned online via ASSISTments since August, providing over 520,000 students access to quality math content with immediate feedback (a record-breaking year in our history!). Over 3,000 joined us for webinars, both to get the basics of ASSISTments but also go deeper on topics like how to build a growth mindset in math and how to effectively differentiate learning.

We saw over 80 teachers get involved in our Certified Educator and Ambassador Programs, and participate in our virtual Professional Learning Communities. Our Facebook community doubled in size to over 800, with 70% of members actively engaging. We are also excited to see our community is more diverse than ever, with teachers in almost all 50 states, and 58% serving majority free and reduced lunch, and 38% majority Black and Latinx students. 45% of teachers who attended webinars identified as people of color.

Overseeing our teacher programming and professional development, I get the pleasure of learning what great math teachers do, and how ASSISTments fits in. 

  • The majority of teachers use ASSISTments to enable them to assign online from their core curriculum (over 91% of our assignments came from the open education resources we offer, such as  Illustrative Math and EnageNY). While there are editable pdfs and other digital solutions to support use of these curricula, teachers are drawn to both the immediate feedback students get in ASSISTments, allowing them to learn as they go, and the rich details of the assignment report they get in return.
  • Speaking of that feedback, students valued this, and the ability to make multiple attempts while working through challenging grade-level content, more than ever. ASSISTments created a more supportive environment for students as they oftentimes worked remotely. As one student from middle school teacher Holly Pierce shared, “I like that if I get an answer wrong it doesn’t push me down it builds me back up and gives me another chance”.
  • While reinforcing and enhancing the use of high quality curricula is our primary use case, we also heard from teachers using ASSISTments to support mastery-based skills practice, differentiated group work, and a gradeless classroom. We have always considered ourselves a teacher-paced tool designed to be used flexibly, and you all  showed us just how flexible it could be! 
  • Prior to the Pandemic, there was skepticism that meaningful virtual professional learning was possible. We uncovered the huge promise of small collaborative communities of educators who teach the same curriculum and grade-level, learning together virtually via our Professional Learning Communities. The PLCs created a forum for teachers to go deeper on the potential of ASSISTments. Middle school teacher, Javier Oceguera says, "When I first came across ASSISTments I thought it was going to be a site where I could assign the Eureka Math Curriculum and grade it online...I was correct, but not entirely. After meeting with wonderful educators from across our nation that implemented the same curriculum and also used ASSISTments I discovered a multitude of uses for ASSISTments other than just online content."
  • Given the entirely new circumstances in which teachers found themselves, nothing was more valuable than allowing teachers to share with one another their hard lessons earned. Through our targeted webinar series, we heard from over 10 different teachers about how they tackle various instructional challenges. As one participant shared, "We LOVE seeing how these platforms realistically work from actual teachers!!" Similarly, teachers in our PLCs most valued the chance to learn from each other. As one participant shared, their favorite part was the continued discussion and sharing of ideas. “We're all in this together.”

As we look ahead to the Spring, we look forward to continuing to be inspired by the dedication of teachers to meet the needs of their students, no matter the circumstances. We will be busy launching our next cohort of Ambassadors, three new cohorts of our PLCs, a new set of webinar programming, including a focus on equitable and inclusive math instruction, and continuing to serve and learn from our incredible community of math teachers.

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