How to close the maths attainment gap

Now is the time to really harness the power of edtech as it can help identify any knowledge gaps.
Chris Green
Dec 9, 2020
Maths gaps
Harnessing edtech to close the achievement gap in maths

This year, students’ education has been disrupted by Covid-19, and while provision has been continued through remote learning platforms, a concerted effort now needs to be made to ensure the attainment gap is minimised and no cohort is left behind as part of the legacy of this pandemic.

During school closures, which were notably more significant for some states than others, edtech has seen an unprecedented surge in access, as students and teachers around Australia, and the world, replaced the school gates with login portals. However, as the school year comes to a close, it is important for teachers to ensure students’ skills and aptitude are at a level that will support their progression to the next grade in the new year, and edtech can also play a key role in achieving this.

Here, Chris Green, former teacher and education consultant at Mangahigh, discusses why now is the time to really harness the power of edtech and how it can help identify any knowledge gaps, boost engagement, and support both teachers and students as they move onwards and upwards in their educational journey.

Identifying knowledge gaps
One of the most common critiques of edtech is that it provides low return on investment for end users. However, if resources are strategically selected, edtech can play a powerful role in joining up day-to-day teaching and learning with assessment so that progress can be easily tracked. This is particularly important given the Covid-19 attainment gap that has emerged, with teachers needing to regularly assess levels of existing knowledge, identify key knowledge gaps and be able to address these through personalised interventions.

As educators, we are aware that not all students progress at their own rate or find the same learning modules challenging but, delivering personalised learning through traditional pedagogies can be an incredibly taxing task on teacher workloads. This is one of the many reasons, that personalised learning pathways have been a foundation stone for any effective edtech. Without this, we are providing a disjointed teaching and learning experience. However, when it has the capability to support independent learning and topic reinforcement tailored to the students’ needs, teachers are able to deploy assessment tools and actionable insights and prevent students from falling further behind.

Boosting student engagement
Despite being a crucial life skill, as a subject, maths doesn’t have a glowing reputation. We hear adults say, ‘I’m terrible at maths’, wearing it almost as a badge of honour, but similarly would never hear them say ‘I’m terrible at English’. This perception filters down to children, impacting their willingness to engage with the subject or persevere when they face challenging core concepts.

Dubbed ‘maths anxiety’, this is another challenge edtech can help overcome, by encouraging a growth mindset though game-based learning. Teaching students to react positively to ‘failure’ is a crucial step in any educational journey and a growth mindset can help students become more resilient, try different approaches, rework problems and persevere until they accomplish the task. Pair this with game-based learning, which integrates video games and a competitive spirit into the learning environment, and we are motivating students whilst also reducing their maths anxiety and boosting student engagement.

Encouraging self-mastery through self-assessment
Repeatedly we’ve seen that independent learning and self-assessment can increase students’ understanding of the foundations of maths and improve outcomes. We also know that some formal assessment methods rely on information recall rather than a deep understanding of the learning blocks that are key to progression. Self-assessment flips this approach on its head, ensuring students have a nuanced understanding of the maths concepts being taught while also providing greater insight into their comprehension and most effective teaching and learning styles.

While edtech often strives to boost engagement and support personalised instruction, a new wave of edtech is emerging which also places an emphasis on independent learning.  These new tools help students take greater ownership of their education and encourages them to mirror their teachers’ strategies by breaking down challenging concepts to address their weaker areas.