During our school days, we can vividly remember roomfuls of students robotically repeating math facts over and over. New math games have given a new lease of life to basic math facts, but one innovative platform, Reflex, is paving the way for student math fact mastery.
Reflex is an online math games platform for Grades 2 and up, which aims to develop fluency in basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division math facts. The goal of Reflex is helping students develop automaticity with basic math facts. Attaining this skill is of major importance to students, as research has shown that those who can automatically recall math facts are better at problem solving and can learn new math skills quicker and easier.
Reflex is based on a ‘fact family’ approach whereby instead of learning addition and subtraction facts (for example) individually, they are presented with these facts at the same time. The system is based on a fact family approach that builds on and reinforces important mathematical concepts such as the commutative property and the relationship between the operations. When students understand the conceptual connections between facts, their progress to automaticity is accelerated. The platform customizes itself to each individual student, and adapts its questions based on what the student is not fluent with. This innovative process ensures that students are not answering questions based on what they already know.
The teacher platform loads quickly, and the dashboard contains four main sections; Classes, where you add classes and students, Reports, which monitor student progress, Profile, where you can manage personal settings and Student, where you can experience Reflex as a student would. The assignments are divided up into Addition and Subtraction, and Multiplication and Division. The dashboard is thoughtfully laid out and simple to understand; there are no complicated set up skills needed.
The student game starts with the personable Mr Crabby introducing the game and guiding students into creating their own avatar using different hair styles and skin color. After creating an initial comfortable, fun environment for students, they are brought into the Fact Fair, where their fluency and input speed are assessed at the beginning of each session. This assesses their progress and optimizes instruction within the game.
Introducing new facts and families is carried out by Coach Penny who coaches students with facts depending on what the student needs to master, based on their fluency data. Her game based on a puzzle board with squares that are revealed after math questions are answered correctly. Any questions answered incorrectly are given the correct answer and students can retry the questions. The game concludes with all of the squares revealed and an animated cartoon appearing. The goal of the coaching section is to help students answer new facts from memory. Once this section has been completed, the fluency development games increase recall speed until they attain full fluency.
Some of the fluency development games include:
Ninja to the Stars:
An action packed platform style game where students must answer correct math questions to jump from one platform to the next aiming to get as high as possible.
This game puts students in a colourful balloon that has to be manoeuvred by correctly answering math problems. This is relatively tricky, as not only do you have to think of the correct answers but also the direction in which you need to move the balloon in without crashing into obstacles.
The game moves at a fast pace, keeping students engaged and motivated to play, and the game characters are full of personality with witty dialogue and well-constructed graphics. Once each mini-game is completed, students are given gold stars and they can continue onto the next game. Many games are only opened after another has been completed, giving great motivation to finish games in order to progress in the game. Once students finish playing a game, they receive tokens for effort and progress which can be spent at the Reflex store to customize their avatar and decorate their island. In general, a session using Reflex takes 10-20 minutes but there is no time limit allowing teachers to be flexible in their lesson planning using the game.
Reflex has won countless educational awards for its technology, including a CODiE award for Best K12 Instructional Solution, but a key indicator of how good an educational game is is to go into the classroom and see the benefits for students. Reflex has consistently shown increases in math fluency in Elementary, Middle and High School students. The sheer number of positive case studies that have measureable quantitative results shows how Reflex has benefitted thousands of students through game-based learning techniques.
One area that makes Reflex stand out from the bustling math game field is its applied use of pedagogical theory and learning process for game creation. Reflex is based on the latest research into math fact fluency, and in house researchers have created a white paper which explains how the game uses this research to form a pedagogically robust system. This is a very impressive document which goes beyond what other game-based learning companies produce. Not only does it demonstrate the thinking behind the game, and how game structure impacts on student learning, but it shows how the game is built around up-to-date research. This demonstrates the complexity behind the game and gives educators the satisfaction of knowing that the game has been created with pedagogy in mind. Another way in which Reflex is standing above other math game providers is how it uses student response patterns. Researchers from ExploreLearning examine the student data and use it to improve and make the game more effective.
We spoke to Meredith Cole, a Product Specialist from Reflex to tell us some more about the technology and how it is useful for educators.
What were the motivations for creating Reflex?
Major curriculum organizations are unanimous on the criticality of math fact fluency. The NCTM, National Math Advisory Panel, and the Common Core State Standards Initiative all highlight math fact fluency as a central pillar of every student’s mathematics education. Traditional resources such as flashcards and worksheets are limited in their ability to address fluency deficits because (a) they cannot systematically introduce a limited number of facts with appropriate strategies to catalyze memory-based retrieval, and (b) they cannot provide practice opportunities that include the systematic, adaptive sequencing of math facts required to reliably lead to automaticity.
ExploreLearning saw a need for research-based system that could solve the problem of math fact fluency. Reflex’s highly adaptive technology provides each student with an optimized path from the initial acquisition of new facts through to full automaticity.
What are the key benefits of these educational games for teachers?
It’s easy for teachers to get started on Reflex and use it on an on-going basis. Reflex is 100% online, so students can use it anywhere there’s an Internet connection – in classrooms and computer labs, during after-school programs, and at home. And with intuitive and powerful reporting, teachers have everything they need to easily monitor and support student progress.
Also, students love using Reflex. Teachers find using the game-based Reflex is much easier (and more effective) then traditional methods of teaching math fact fluency. We have had some great feedback from educators who have used our technology. For example, a 5th grade teacher in Alexandria Public School District in Virginia told us, “My students have really become engaged in using Reflex. They get excited about opening new games and altering the look of their avatar. The certificates they receive are also strong motivators to continue working.”
Other teachers note that Reflex helps them save time in the classroom and focus their instruction. A math coach in Frenchtown School District 40 in Montana said, “I do not have to waste time trying to figure out which facts students are struggling with. My instruction time has doubled, and I feel my instruction has become more precise and effective.” They also commented on the benefits of our reporting tools; A 4th grade teacher in Mobile County School District in Alabama explained, “As a teacher I can see my students results at the push of a button and that is fantastic. So many things are complicated and require tons of work for teachers but this program does all the work.”
How do students benefit from Reflex?
Research has shown that student’s attribution of success can be changed by their experiences with math in the classroom. In Reflex, students are rewarded for effort as well as progress. This provides powerful motivation and understanding that effort (not just “talent”) leads to success.
One recent major research study found that the two strongest predictors of student success in high school level mathematics were the students’ mastery of whole-number division and fractions when in elementary school. Math fact fluency is a critical requirement when learning to compute with fractions. Reflex ensures that students have the automaticity they need to succeed.
An elementary school teacher in Juniata County School District in Pennsylvania says that the confidence Reflex gives students is remarkable. “Reflex gives them the confidence to try to answer some facts that they haven’t mastered yet. They are making great strides in Reflex. I had some students in the beginning who struggled to get the ‘Green Light,’ but now they are confident and excited. Others become amazed when they see all of the facts they are fluent in.”
To use Reflex math games in your classroom, ExploreLearning offer a 14 day trial which gives full access to one teacher and five students. After the trial period finishes up, the technology is available to buy via a School, Teacher or Home license.