Two Yuma schools from Yuma Elementary District 1 are among 12 elementary schools — and over 4,000 students — in Arizona that are benefitting from a $250,000 grant to help improve student math scores.

The grant, awarded by the Cisco Foundation to the nonprofit education researcher MIND Research Institute, is helping the Arizona Department of Education reach its goal of improving student achievement through innovative technology.

District 1 Superintendent Darwin Stiffler said that MIND's ST Math instructional software was launched at Gwyneth Ham and Pecan Grove elementary schools this year.

“Classes utilize a computer lab several times a week to access the program,” he said. “Early results are very promising. Teachers and students are liking it. Kids think it is fun and teachers are impressed with how on-task the students are.”

Stiffler noted that the ST Math program is tied to Arizona state standards and reinforces previous learning.

“Some students are asking to miss recess so that they can continue to work on their geometry and number sense,” he shared. “From my perspective, it seems to foster a deeper understanding of math concepts. We are grateful to be included in the project.”

Gwyneth Ham Principal Rebecca Kuechel added that the third- and fourth-grade students who participate in the program love the concept of the game.

She explained that the students have to get an animated penguin named JiJi from one side of the computer screen to the other by solving various math problems.

“I think the thing that's going to be very beneficial to our kids is that it not only helps differentiate instruction to reach kids at all different academic levels but also of language proficiency,” Kuechel said. “That's the one thing that we have seen that even with our second language learners, they're able to pick it right up.”

She noted that the students log-in to the program for at least 90 minutes a week.

“They are having a blast. It's so interesting and fun for the kids,” Kuechel said.

Another thing that she likes about the program is the ability for it to give a student immediate feedback when they solve a problem incorrectly.

“They have to figure out why they got it wrong,” she said.

With this program, she is hopeful that it will help raise math test scores as it has done with other districts across the U.S.

Arizona is the 24th state to join the K-12 initiative nationwide.

Visit www.mindresearch.net for more information about the MIND Research Institute.

Sarah Womer can be reached at swomer@yumasun.com or 539-6858.

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