Using the “T” to teach the “M” — ST Math scales across Iowa

Howard-Winneshiek Community School District students particpate in ST Math, Scale-Up program
A room full of kindergartners from the Howard-Winneshiek Community School District in Cresco intently engage in one of this year’s newest Scale-Up programs, ST Math.

It is not your typical kindergarten classroom. Although full of the boundless energy of youth, the room is so quiet you would hear a pin drop. Every child is seated, eyes glued to their iPads, headphones on, some smiling and some intently focused on reaching the next level in a game called, ST (Spatial-Temporal) Math.

Yet, what these future STEM-ers are doing is more than a game. Part of the STEM pedagogy is to integrate STEM principles into one another for effective learning. MIND Research Institute’s ST Math, a new STEM Scale-Up program offered this year, does just that by using the “T” (for technology) in STEM and a student’s love for video games to teach mathematics.

Kris Voves, teacher at Crestwood Elementary in Cresco, is one of three teachers leading 60 first-graders through ST Math who show a great interest in the new method of learning.

“One of the things that is neat to see is watching the kids become problem-solvers by manipulating objects to get the correct answer,” Voves said. “It's also helpful that we're able to track each student's progress. Some students who are normally not independent during group and individual activities are independent during ST Math.”

The year-long, K-12 supplemental curriculum created in 1997 aligns with Common Core standards and is one of 14 STEM Scale-Up programs currently being implemented across Iowa this fall. This year, nearly 80 schools in Iowa, equating to thousands of students, will participate in the program focused on boosting mathematics comprehension and proficiency through visual learning and puzzles.

Data provided by ST Math shows that participating Iowa schools in the past have enjoyed a six percentile growth in mathematics proficiency among students using ST Math compared to a 1.1 percentile growth for non-ST Math users. More than 2,500 schools and nearly one million students have used ST Math to-date.

“As a social benefit non-profit organization, MIND Research Institute works with national and local partners to expand the reach and impact of our ST Math program,” said Brian Molitor, strategic partnerships director for MIND Research Institute. “The STEM Council has been an exemplary partner in our efforts to provide more students with access to ST Math, which will give them the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills they will need to achieve success in today’s economy.”

The current STEM Scale-Up programs will be invited in November to reapply alongside new programs interested in partnering with the STEM Council for next year’s offerings. For a full list of current programs, visit www.IowaSTEM.gov/Scale-Up.