West Utica fifth grader Nevil Thomas knows one important reason he and his classmates are coming into school an hour early to polish up their math skills.
"It makes us better," Thomas said. "We want to be so good that the junior high school principal says to our principal - 'wow, your kids are smart.' "
Nearly 100 West Utica students have signed up with the free web-based Kahn Academy videos to supplement their classroom math instruction.
West Utica opens its media center lab one hour early Monday through Friday to give students time to move through the site's tutorials. Students also use the program to reinforce their instruction at home.
The Kahn academy has a library of more than 2,800 videos covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance and history with 290 practice exercises.
After only one week, West Utica teacher Jonathan Marceau said the program has been shown to make a noticeable difference.
"It really reinforces instruction in the classroom and boosts their abilities in math," he said.
He said the program has assisted all range of learners - advanced students are being challenged at a greater level and students needing assistance have made gains in their mastery of concepts.
The session is an example of how technology is being used to support innovative instruction throughout Utica Community Schools. U.S. Educators are promoting the effective use of technology as part of the first Digital Learning Day on February 1, sponsored by the Alliance for Excellent Education.
At West Utica, students started at the beginning and have been progressing through a sequence of math concepts. It is the quick recognition of their achievements that has helped students feel better about their math skills.
"The program challenges you," said West Utica fifth-grader Travis Long. "If you get an answer right, it will move you along a path. If you don't get the answer right, it will take you back so you can try again."