IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

My Math Academy Improving Early Childhood Math Skills

Math teachers at Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District in Texas are seeing student grades improve through the use of My Math Academy, a game-based educational platform that tracks real-time progress.

My Math Academy.png
My Math Academy provides game-based lessons that strengthen students' math skills.
Age of Learning
As students across the country make the gradual return to in-person classes, teachers have looked to new digital platforms to help combat learning loss and narrow growing achievement gaps in early childhood math that resulted from last year’s drastic shift to remote learning.

One such platform, My Math Academy from the ed tech company Age of Learning, is helping early-elementary students boost their math scores with game-based lessons that yield granular data on student progress, which teachers can then use to course-correct.

The company's Chief Innovation Officer Sunil Gunderia said the goal of the program is to make lessons entertaining while helping teachers to formulate individualized lesson plans that cater to students’ strengths and weaknesses.

“We were building My Math Academy to address achievement gaps,” he said, adding that the program had been in development for about six years prior to the pandemic. “To address the unique qualities of children, you need a system that personalizes learning to ensure each child reaches their potential.”

The platform caters primarily to students in pre-kindergarten through second grade and has been used in schools and districts such as Los Angeles Unified School District, Chapel Hill Academy, Lakeport Unified School District and EPIC Charter Schools, where the company says students have made “significant gains” in math skills, according to data gathered by system administrators and the research nonprofit WestEd.

More than 900 pre-K students in Texas-based Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District gained access to the platform last fall as part of a free company pilot program. Since then, district officials said, math skills more than doubled for 4-year-old pre-K students and tripled for 3-year-olds. The average pre-K student aged 4 is now at mid-kindergarten level, while the average pre-K student aged 3 is approaching kindergarten-level math skills. Noting this progress, the district extended the use of the platform to about 240 kindergartners in April.

“What we’ve found is teachers like it and it works for them because it engages students in math learning, it enables independent learning whether you’re at home or in school, and it provides real-time data on how their class is performing or how their child is learning,” Gunderia said, noting that students generally use the program for about 45 minutes weekly.

Harlingen school officials plan to make use of the program for grades pre-K through second next year, as well as for third graders still falling behind in math. The company said pricing will be determined on a per-student basis, with details pending as of Monday.

Carmen Alvarez, the district's director of primary literacy, said the platform provides “a diagnostic approach” to learning. She said the program’s dashboard gives teachers the insight needed to help students of varying skill levels.

“It’s kind of like being a great doctor,” she said. “A great doctor is going to look at the data before they go see a patient, and that’s exactly what the teachers are doing.”

About 80 percent of Harlingen Consolidated students are considered economically disadvantaged. Many of them come from low-income and rural migrant worker families, according to Alvarez.

As of this week, Alvarez said, 60 to 65 percent of the system's students have returned to in-person learning, though the platform can be used both at home via district-issued devices and hot spots, as well as within in-person lessons.

“For a lot of our children, this is their first type of experience with any type of [virtual] game,” she said. "This is their first experience with this, and so they love it, and they embrace it."

According to Alvarez and Gunderia, the district recently identified 25 pre-K students who have progressed to second grade-level math on the platform.

Alvarez said the program allows some students to learn at their own pace and skip "page one." She said this gives teachers more flexibility to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to instruction.

“That’s not the game anymore,” she said, touching on the need to offer personalized lessons for advanced students.
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.