New program equals success for West Utica student

West Utica Elementary fourth grader Bhavin Patel has progressed through nearly two years of math instruction in 10 weeks.

Bhavin Patel is not only looking to his future, he has a head start on it.

The West Utica fourth grader has embraced a new mathematics program called "Dreambox" at his school to the extent that he has already made it to a sixth-grade level in his instruction.

His motivation is that he knows how important math is to his future.

"When you grow up, you use math every day," he said. "If you do not know it, you are going to have a lot of trouble."

Dreambox is software that is being piloted at 16 schools in the district this year to help teachers personalize instruction for students.

Available at West Utica since mid-October, the program allows students to progress at their own unique learning levels in math.

"Every click of the mouse, every second spent practicing and every student answer are tracked," West Utica principal Bradley Suggs said."The program uses this data to create an individual pathway for the student and a problem set based on student needs. Students do not advance on their pathway until they have mastered the skills they are working on."

And you can count on the fact that Patel has indeed mastered his math units.

The fourth-grader has not only finished his current year's curriculum, he has jumped ahead and finished the fifth grade units.

"It feels exciting," he said. "It's a big accomplishment and I feel can go ahead to the next unit."

It took about 75 hours of work with his West Utica teachers and at home to finish the units.

"Bhavin has worked extremely hard here at school and at home on the program," Suggs said. " Bhavin was our first student to conquer the program and I am very proud to say that we have many more students right behind him."

Dreambox simulates game technology to help motivate students to move to the next level. If there is an area that needs more assistance, students have the ability to view lessons that reinforce the content. Once they master a unit, they earn a reward - a star - and have the ability to move onto the next content area.

"Dreambox lessons are based on the new common core curriculum standards and allows teachers the opportunity to individually progress monitor their students on these standards by providing many results-based reports," Suggs said. "Staff members at West Utica Elementary have only begun to utilize the data provided by the reports to pinpoint individual student needs and adapt their instruction based on these needs."

Suggs said teachers will use an on-line program - the Khan Academy - to make sure Patel is continuing to be challenged in his math instruction.

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