Confidence and mathematical reasoning are getting stronger alongside test scores.
It all started on Instagram.
Casey Neidert, a 6th-grade math teacher in her second year of teaching at Troy South Middle School in Lincoln County, Missouri, won our Teacher Appreciation Week contest after sharing her favorite teaching moment. She was excited to win and mentioned how much she loved using our math program, and we knew we needed to hear her story!
We chatted with Neidert and Sarah Howell, who recently finished her second year of instructional coaching at both middle schools in Lincoln County R-III School District (Troy Middle School and Troy South Middle School) after eleven years of teaching sixth and eighth-grade math.
A few minutes into our conversation, it was easy to see how much Neidert and Howell love their jobs and working with each other. Both are excited about our Middle School Math Solution's impact on their students.
Raising Scores, Helping Teachers
Howell was part of the group that selected and piloted the new math program for the district. Early in the decision-making process, she knew that whatever solution the district chose needed to address two challenges familiar to many educators: low test scores and teacher burnout.
“Our MAP scores weren't showing the growth we wanted,” Howell explains, “and as we dug into the resource that we had, we started to notice that the DOK [depth of knowledge] level wasn't as high as we thought it was. It provided a lot of skill-and-drill and allowed the lower-level basics, but when it came to application, that's what was really hurting us.”
Teachers and coaches were also spending too much time and energy prepping and grading. “It was me doing all the work,” Howell says. “I was leaving the classroom exhausted, and students were leaving ready to go have the time of their lives. It was the opposite of what it should be.”
Two years after adopting the Middle School Math Solution, Howell and Neidert are happy to report that students are learning math on a deeper level that aligns across grades and with state standards. Their confidence, enthusiasm for math, and test scores are also rising. And teachers love having their resources and student data in one accessible place.
Helping All Students Be Math People
Neidert shares a story about one student who started the school year telling anyone who would listen how much he hated math. But he came around when he saw that math class was a place where his voice was valued. “He ended up with a B in my class!” Neidert reports proudly. “His tests were amazing, and so was his participation. He told me, ‘You know, I never used to participate in class. I kind of thought it was stupid until I got here.’”
What changed this student's attitude toward math so drastically? Neidert points to a feature of our math solution that sets it apart from others. MATHbook, the write-in textbook component of our Middle School Math Solution, encourages students to work collaboratively and talk through their mathematical reasoning with each other. Centering students in their mathematical journeys has increased engagement and fostered joy in the learning process.
“I’ve never had so many kids tell me, ‘I'm so comfortable with math.’ ‘You make math so fun.’ ‘This is the first time I’ve understood math,’” says Neidert happily.
Building Rigorous Mathematical Thinkers
Both Neidert and Howell share how exciting it is that their students are having real conversations about math and thinking deeply about complex mathematical concepts.
“Carnegie Learning's really big into the ‘why?’ and the ‘how?’ behind the math and not the quick shortcuts,” says Neidert.
Although she now enjoys listening to her students’ discussions and finds them a helpful tool to gauge understanding, Neidert admits that moving to a more student-centered model was challenging initially. “I like a quiet room,” she laughs. “So getting used to all that noise in math class was a lot at first. But I tell my students they have to take risks; the same is true for me.”
While watching their students grow as mathematical thinkers, Howell and Neidert say they have seen growth in themselves too, particularly when it comes to asking the kinds of questions that get kids thinking and talking. “Asking the right questions helps students with their understanding,” Neidert confirms. “If they’re asking a question like, ‘Why is this?’ or ‘What is this?’ I ask, ‘Well, what do you think?’ It's helping them grow as problem solvers.”
Much Ado About MATHia!
Both teachers are enthusiastic about how students have challenged themselves with MATHia, the 1-on-1 adaptive tutoring software in our Middle School Math Solution. Howell shares the story of one student who told her, “‘I passed my test, and it's because I saw all these things on MATHia.’’
Neidert appreciates how MATHia allows her to customize her instruction and feedback, so each student gets precisely what they need. “I really like how MATHia allows me to work one-on-one with my kids,” she shares. “On MATHia days, I’m running around the room and I’m able to see exactly what every kid is stuck on. And also what they’re doing great on.”
Both teachers chuckle when discussing how MATHia introduces their students to new skills, sometimes even before they have. “A lot of them say, ‘I've seen this in MATHia,’ and they're working the problem out before I even taught it in class,” reports Neidert. “I tell them, ‘Look what you're learning! You're learning this through MATHia!’”
Giving Teachers Time To Teach
Every teacher knows that, when it comes to time management, the struggle is real. “Time is the one thing I always run out of when I’m working with kids,” sighs Howell.
Both teachers report that the Middle School Math Solution, which provides all the materials teachers need, from detailed lesson plans to online workspaces to comprehensive student data, is freeing them up to spend more time doing what they love best—supporting students.
“What really stood out with Carnegie Learning is that we don't have to make a whole bunch of things to make our lessons engaging because the book gives you your lesson,” Howell confirms. “And all you have to figure out is what structures you can put in place to make it engaging. Whereas before, we had to create all these documents to just get through one day of teaching.”
“It saves me time,” Neidert echoes. “and frees up the energy for me to ask myself, ‘How can I bring this to life?’”
Howell also notes that teachers feel less pressure to ensure that all their lessons incorporate state standards since the program is state standards-aligned. “I think it takes the pressure off teachers of making sure that they're hitting all the standards and now they can focus more on making lessons fun,” she reports.
Assessments Are Improving
Students are performing better on assessments now than they were before implementing the math solution. “I can see it working with their test scores,” says Neidert. “They're able to apply themselves and apply their knowledge. Usually, on a test, you get question marks when students don’t know the answers. But now, they're not afraid to answer the questions.”
Neidert notes that even more exciting than rising test scores is the fact that students’ attitudes have improved, and they genuinely want to do well. “If they completely bombed the post-test, they’re in my face the next day,” she laughs. “‘Can I retake this?’ ‘I want to do better.’ ‘I know this.’ Instead of me chasing them down, they're coming up to me. I think Carnegie Learning gives them that feeling of wanting to grow in math.”
Bright Hopes for the Future
As an instructional coach in two middle schools, Howell works with many teachers and students and is able to see big-picture changes in her district’s approach to math. She says that one of the most exciting things the Middle School Math Solution has let schools do is raise their expectations.
“School’s not supposed to be easy,” Howell says, “so pushing the students and raising our expectations has been huge. Our standards are higher than they have been in the past, and that's great.”
“I'm actually excited for next year,” Neidert adds, “because, whoa! If I could do this much this year, what am I going to do next? Having the program is working. It’s cool to see.”
“I can’t imagine doing math without it,” Howell asserts.”I'm excited for my own kids to have it.”
We’re so proud of these two exceptional educators for all they do to help every student see that they can be a math person too, and we can’t wait to see what everyone at Troy and Troy South Middle Schools do next!
Carnegie Learning is helping students learn why, not just what. Born from more than 30 years of learning science research at Carnegie Mellon University, the company has become a recognized leader in the ed tech space, using artificial intelligence, formative assessment, and adaptive learning to deliver groundbreaking solutions to education’s toughest challenges. With the highest quality offerings for K-12 math, ELA, literacy, world languages, professional learning and more, Carnegie Learning is changing the way we think about education, fostering learning that lasts.Explore more related to this author