IXL in action

Raising the Bar

Kim Creagh, 3rd grade teacher
Mountain Park Elementary in Roswell, GA

Big ideas:

  • Post IXL metrics and student accomplishments in giant bar graphs in the hallway
  • Commend top-performing students in the morning announcements
  • Publish names of high achievers in the community e-mail newsletter
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Mountain Park Elementary had always been a top-performing school. But teachers were looking for a way to engage their 900 K-6 grade students even more. They decided to start posting students' IXL accomplishments in the school hallway, where everyone could see them. The data was arranged by grade level, and new metrics were posted each month in the form of a giant bar graph—including number of medals earned, number of minutes practiced, and number of skills mastered. Top performing students were commended in the morning announcements and their names included in the community e-mail newsletter.

Kim Creagh, a third grade teacher at Mountain Park with sixteen years of teaching experience, loved how easy IXL made it to assess student performance—for teachers, parents, and kids. For students, a medal earned would often result in a celebratory high-five. When asked what advice she would give to other teachers wanting to get their students more engaged in math, Creagh said, “Make it fun. And by that I mean don't make it something they have to do. The worst thing you can do is say 'You have to do it.' They won't want to.”

And when students do well? “Celebrate success,” Creagh said, “no matter how big or how small. That was really huge for our kids.”

Math: A Bear Necessity

Brad Gustafson, principal
Greenwood Elementary in Plymouth, MN

Big ideas:

  • Challenge students over the summer with IXL bingo
  • Offer fun prizes for students who complete a set challenge
  • Recognize students who went above and beyond at a school-wide character assembly
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For many schools, it's not uncommon for students' math skills to diminish over the summer break. Not so at Greenwood Elementary, where principal Brad Gustafson created an IXL Summer Learning Challenge to help students continue to learn and grow over the summer months. The format of the challenge? IXL bingo. It was offered on a voluntary basis, and parents were encouraged to get involved.

“Teachers looking to foster increased mathematical engagement and thinking in their students should look for creative ways to make math fun and authentic,” said Gustafson. “There is a misconception that math is isolated to the school setting.”

The bingo tasks were designed to help students progress through the math skills and get them to appreciate the fun features of IXL; individual challenges included earning two ribbons a week for a month, getting nine prizes in a row on a game board, and changing their personal avatar using virtual prizes earned over the summer. Positive feedback from involved parents soon poured in; their children loved the challenges, and many were eager for even more! Students who achieved multiple bingos received school-wide recognition upon returning to school in the fall, and all participants received a specially designed “dog tag” necklace featuring the school's Grizzly bear logo and a simple yet powerful truth: Math: A Bear Necessity.

“Math transcends everything and it's important that educators partner with parents to promote that positive message,” said Gustafson. “Math can be creativity, problem-solving, effort, collaboration, trial and error, growth, practice, and technology...all rolled into one! IXL can make that happen.”

Going for the Goal

George Fiore, 4th/5th grade teacher
Chesterton Elementary in San Diego, CA

Big ideas:

  • Set a class goal to complete a certain number of problems
  • Engage in a friendly competition with another class
  • Have students start on the same skill and see who can be the first to get a SmartScore of 100
  • Display IXL certificates of completion on a bulletin board
  • Display the names of the students who spend the most time on IXL each week
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When it comes to math practice, 4th/5th grade teacher George Fiore has found there's nothing like goal-setting—and a little competition—to get students motivated. What began as a friendly challenge between his 4th/5th grade combo class and another 4th grade class to answer the most questions on IXL quickly became a driving force for many of his students.

“They were all over it,” Fiore said of the competition. “I would just walk in one day and say the other class has 55,000 and we'd have 50,000 and they'd be like 'Can we go on IXL? Can we go on IXL?' and away they went.” It wasn't long before his students left the other class in the dust.

But that wasn't the end of it. Fiore noticed students really loved practicing on IXL, not just in class on their netbooks, but at home as well. They also enjoyed the recognition they received for their progress; Fiore made a point to post certificates that students earned on IXL up on the bulletin board, along with the names of students who spent the most time on IXL each week. He soon presented his students with a new challenge and reward: if they could complete 110,000 problems by the end of the year, they would earn a class party.

Students were so engaged by IXL, Fiore found that he had to do much less planning for his combo class than he'd had to do in the past. While he taught math to his 4th graders, he could simply assign skills to his 5th graders. Fiore also used IXL with students he tutored after school; for added intrigue, he would give all of them the same skill, and the first one to earn a SmartScore of 100 was declared the winner.

As for the 110,000 problems? Fiore's class eventually completed more than 125,000. The victory was well-earned, and it tasted a lot like pizza.

A Recipe for Success

Deborah Williams, federal programs director
Manchester City Schools, Manchester, TN

Big ideas:

  • Partner with a local business to incentivize student achievement
  • Conduct regular award ceremonies to celebrate student successes
  • Throw a party for the class that spent the most time and mastered the most skills on IXL
  • Keep computer labs open for students who don't have internet access at home
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When Manchester City School District was approached by a local business with an idea to incentivize student achievement, it had just purchased IXL for 1,500 of its elementary and middle school students. Logan's Roadhouse, a restaurant committed to local communities and schools, wanted to offer gift cards as a reward for students' success.

Student progress was measured every nine weeks, and students were awarded for time spent on IXL, as well as proficiency gained. For example, students earned a $5 restaurant gift card for gaining 25% proficiency in the curriculum for their grade level, $10 for 50% proficiency, $15 for 75% proficiency, and $20 for 100% proficiency. Every grading period also had its own award ceremony. At the end of the semester, the class that had spent the most time and mastered the most skills on IXL earned a class party catered by Logan's Roadhouse.

Teachers found that students loved IXL, even practicing at night and on the weekends. Deborah Williams, federal programs director for the district, worked with one student in particular who had never before shown a strong interest in math. With IXL, Williams was able to pinpoint where the student needed the most help. The student spent 50 hours on IXL the first quarter, and had mastered nearly 100 skills by the end of the school year.

The district even paid a few teachers to stay after school and keep the computer lab open so students without internet access at home could still practice. The attendance and number of hours logged were so great that the schools hope to make the schedule more permanent.

Williams noted that, while the initial thrill of the IXL challenge was exciting for students, “they were using it just as much at the end, whether they were getting awards or not...They've gotten more involved. Now they know how to use IXL and how valuable it is.”

A Million Reasons to Love Math

John Fontanetta, principal
Charles E. Piper Elementary School in Berwyn, IL

Big ideas:

  • Post the number of problems each grade completes per week on the door of the teacher's lounge
  • Include IXL milestones in the morning announcements
  • Set a school-wide goal to reach
  • Communicate IXL goals to parents
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Principal John Fontanetta had been looking for a program that would provide students with individual access to math practice and teachers with data on how well their students were doing. Enter IXL.

Students responded well to IXL, not only working on math during designated times at school, but also challenging themselves to practice between class and at home for extra practice. To motivate classes further, Fontanetta began to post the number of problems completed on the teacher's lounge door, breaking it down by grade level. He also made this information part of his morning announcements, congratulating classes who reached a new milestone for number of problems completed.

Fontanetta decided students had a good shot at completing 500,000 questions by the end of the school year, so he made it a school-wide goal. By winter break, students were already close to achieving it. Determined to keep the momentum going, Fontanetta upped the goal to a million questions. He encouraged students to continue practicing in their free time, after they finished their regular homework. Along the way, students and teachers set individual and homeroom goals to achieve mastery of various skills on IXL. Friendly competition arose between homerooms, but regardless of which class they were in, all students felt they were contributing to the school goal. A couple weeks shy of the end of the school year, the students surpassed a million questions.

“I believe all student engagement begins with great teachers who have the ability to differentiate learning in a way that allows students to experience success while challenging their own personal growth,” said Fontanetta. “Coupled with outstanding instruction, IXL math has been an effective tool for us to motivate students to achieve personal and school-wide goals.”