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Valley of the Sun Math Challenge Inspires Students to Spend Free Time on Math – Arizona Schools

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Valley of the Sun Math Challenge Inspires Students to Spend Free Time?on Math.
As contest ends, schools find that students spent spring break and after school hours solving math problems online.

April 11, 2010 (Phoenix, Arizona) ??? This year, more than 1,200 students from 25 Arizona K-12 schools entered in the Valley of the Sun Math Challenge that ended Sunday, April 10.? The math competition was sponsored by Backbone Communications, a Valley company dedicated to bringing online computer-learning programs into classrooms, in order to prepare students for April AIMS testing.

For the duration of the Valley of the Sun Math Challenge, Backbone encouraged Arizona students to log on to Apangea Math, a popular online math program, to supplement classroom math curriculum and encourage a little friendly educational competition. In all, Arizona students logged more than 7,200 hours in the system, solving nearly 200,000 math equations, and many of the hours were being spent outside of school hours and even over spring break.

Josh Leitz, Regional Director?of Backbone Communications, was impressed by how the contest inspired students to spend more time on math problems “We have not seen anything like this. We have had teachers tell us that students called in sick to school but spent all day online solving math problems while another school had to open their after-hours computer lab for the first time when students asked for extra time to work on Apangea.?

Students earn points by spending time working on math problems and live-chatting with certified math teachers that tutor them on homework and other math problems.? The winning schools were:

  • 1st Place: Melvin E Sine Elementary School, Glendale Elementary School District
  • 2nd Place: Caurus Academy, Anthem Charter School
  • 3rd Place: Leading Edge Academy (Queen Creek), Queen Creek Charter School
  • 4th Place: Ronald Reagan Elementary School, Crane Elementary School District, Yuma
  • 5th Place: Altadena Middle School, Kyrene School District

Apangea Learning Co-Founder and Chief Education Officer Louis A. Piconi is proud of the extra time students are spending on math at home, ?We create programs that help expand the focus? from athletics to academics for students who want to compete. By making the software fun, competitive, and challenging we have found students have more interest in doing math in school and at home.?
Teachers have noticed a positive impact since the start of the challenge, with students becoming more engaged in math and eager to win the competition.

?My students look forward to going home and solving problems on Apangea.com,? said Mrs. Alvarado, a teacher at Ronald Reagan Elementary School in Yuma.? ?They are showing their work when answering questions on their math homework and tests.?

Students have also enjoyed working toward winning the state-wide math contest.? But for them, the fun hasn?t just been in the possibility of winning, they are also proud of their academic accomplishments while working with Apangea.

?I log on outside of school because it is fun!? said Rachel C., a student at Leading Edge Academy in Gilbert.? ?I get excited to learn more.?

At first Rachel wasn?t so excited about the Valley of the Sun Math Challenge.? But for her and other students who were unsure of their capabilities in math, live-chatting with Apangea?s certified math teachers and using Apangea to work through material teachers cover in their curriculum can strengthen confidence and improve skills.

?At first I didn?t want to go on to Apangea.com because I thought I wasn?t smart [at math],? said Rachel.? ?Apangea has helped with my self-esteem.?

Backbone?s Valley of the Sun Math Challenge was a direct answer to recent concerns about American students? performance in math and science in the classroom and on standardized tests.?? And in Arizona, where students have historically tested low in math, Backbone hopes to bring Apangea into Arizona classrooms through contests like this, and with the help of supportive teachers, school districts, parents, and local government.

In what President Obama recently called a ?Sputnik moment,? the President focused on the country?s timely need for excellence in American education.

The President said, “Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school education. And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. America has fallen to ninth in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us — as citizens, and as parents — are willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.”

Arizona has made significant education reforms already, but has focused on more effective ways to capture student data, and track that data over time.

?Apangea and the teachers and students that use it, have focused on the importance of fundamental education ? the actual learning of concepts through instruction and practice,? said Brian Snyder, Arizona Northwest Regional Manager for Backbone. ?Backbone?s Valley of the Sun Math Challenge shows kids that education can be fun, and that there are benefits and rewards for their work.?
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Photo courtesy of Sine Elementary School, Glendale, AZ

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Photo courtesy of Sine Elementary School, Glendale, AZ

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Photo courtesy of Caurus Academy, Anthem, AZ

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—-> Videos courtesy of Caurus Academy, Anthem

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