As junior Hank Hegge worked through the problems on the IXL program, he was given a positive message as he successfully completed each problem.
As junior Hank Hegge worked through the problems on the IXL program, he was given a positive message as he successfully completed each problem.
Forgetting something that one isn't continuously exposed to can be a problem for everyone from children to teens to adults.

Being exposed to a continuous, steady flow of information makes retention much better. That is the goal of the new program "Ready To Learn" (RTL) at Spring Grove High School.

For 20 minutes each day, high school students take time to focus on math skills.

"For quite some time, we [the school] have been focusing on reading, and we've seen really nice improvement in this area. Now, we are adding extra focus on math to keep a healthy balance," explained Scott Solberg, guidance counselor.

"With block scheduling, it is possible for students to go quite a while in between math courses, and then the math concepts become a little fuzzier. Having this time every day to focus on math helps keep those concepts fresher in their minds."

Eight minutes were taken from each of the three full class blocks to create this new learning time slot (20 minutes of class time and four minutes for passing).

"At the beginning, the teachers were concerned about losing eight minutes of class time each day; but now they are seeing the benefits, because when other special events or extra things such as pep fests, meetings, college visits, et cetera are needed, they are scheduled during this time leaving classes uninterrupted," added Solberg.

"To make this work, our schedules were readjusted and now there is more cohesive flow for the seventh through 12th grades; it is working very nicely."

During RTL, students work with an online math program called IXL. This program is specially tailored to each individual student; as the student works through the math problems and continues to get them right, the difficulty of the problems increases.

Vice versa, if the student is struggling with the correct answers, the program goes back over concepts it sees the student struggling with.

"It sometimes becomes a competition between the students," remarked Chris Strinmoen, high school math teacher.

"The students will be working on IXL and when they hit their mastery level they hi-five each other! It is nice to see them engaged and excited about learning."

The Middle Age students (fourth, fifth and sixth grades) have also been using the IXL online program.

"The students have really taken ownership of their math skills," said Deb Morken, Middle Ages math teacher.

"If they make mistakes or have questions about a particular math problem, they write it down and bring it to class, and we'll put the questions on the board. We've had some great math discussions come out of this; I think it is fabulous."

Students are able to and encouraged to access IXL at home to practice their math skills. They all have a username and password. Parents can also look at what their child has been working on and see where they've improved or what they need to work on.

"There are many reports that can be generated from a student's progress with the IXL program," said Kim Kapplinger, high school math teacher.

"There is information on the math standards they have worked on, the ones they have mastered and the ones they have looked at but have not yet mastered. The information is very useful."

"One thing that I like about having the students use IXL is that they have become used to answering problems on a computer and are more comfortable with that, which makes a huge difference when it comes time for them to take the MCA tests. It relieves the anxiety of taking a test on a computer, because now they are so familiar with it," added Strinmoen.

The school has subscribed to IXL for an entire year, so students are able to access IXL even during the summer, giving them another opportunity to practice their math skills and not forget what they have learned during the school year.

During RTL, three weeks are spent focusing on math and one week is taken off so students are given a variety of enrichment activities to participate in.

"These enrichment activities keep it fresh for the students, and it gives them a little break from math," explained Solberg. "It has also been an opportunity for teachers and students to share their talents."

Activities that have been offered during their week off from math include, yarn crafts (crocheting and knitting), basic automotive, chess, iMovie, Pixlr (online photo editing), cooking, dodge ball, walking, DEAR (Drop Everything And Read), study hall and more. One week all the students partook in an anti-bullying program.

"As a school, we identified math as an area that needed growth," commented principal, Nancy Gulbranson.

"Through RTL and the IXL program we are making a focused effort on these important skills. I believe our students see this focus and know that improvement in learning is valued.

"With their ability to self-check their own improvement in the IXL program, it also gives them ownership in what they accomplish. This has been a valuable learning time for our students."