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WestEd to Study Efficacy of 'My Math Academy' Digital Tool

WestEd, a nonprofit that researches ed-tech products, will use a $3.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to study the effectiveness of an online math program for young children.

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My Math Academy provides game-based lessons to improve math skills in early elementary students.
Age of Learning
WestEd, a nonprofit that helps education companies research and develop their products for feasibility, usability, implementation and efficacy, has been awarded a nearly $3.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences to study the efficacy of the My Math Academy program, a tool created by ed-tech company Age of Learning for early elementary students, according to a news release provided to Government Technology.

Especially given the abundance of options teachers now have for digital learning tools, WestEd Senior Director of STEM Research and Entrepreneurship Steve Schneider said doing due diligence on their effectiveness is an obvious first step for any educator before buying.

“If you're going to go buy a car, I'm going to guess you're going to go over some consumer reports (to find) what cars are more reliable … what's their gas mileage or what's their electric charge,” Schneider said. “The whole purpose of this is to provide information about interventions that public and private schools, as well as parents, might end up wanting to buy for their children.”

The grant, which will run through June 30, 2026, will peel back the curtain on a math tool that has already been integrated at numerous school districts throughout the country, achieving Tier 1 status of the Every Students Succeeds Act, the highest level of evidence standards within the act, according to the news release. Schneider said that Age of Learning has an internal research team that covers feasibility and implementation, so for the grant, the WestEd team of researchers will compile droves of data from kindergarten and first grade classrooms across dozens of districts, through a randomized controlled trial where some classes will use the tool and others will not for two academic years, resulting in a complete summative report. He said that the sample will be large enough to show causality in the outcome.

“I think other companies like Age of Learning have realized that there's a real advantage to developing technology with continuing research, both from the formative stage to the summative stage,” Schneider said.

For Age of Learning, having the study may help validate what they already know.

“We take a research-driven approach to developing our programs and have already amassed a significant body of evidence showing the effectiveness of My Math Academy … and this study with WestEd will give us a greater opportunity to show that My Math Academy is delivering significant learning gains for all students," Age of Learning Chief Innovation Officer Sunil Gunderia said in a public statement.

According to Schneider, Age of Learning will help WestEd in the recruitment of school districts and the implementation side of things, but WestEd will conduct a wholly independent research study of the tool — “the good or the bad.” The research team, Schneider expanded, will look at whether the product worked; if students who used the tool had better outcomes than those who didn’t; whether it helped students learn math better; if teachers felt the students were more engaged in their math work; how much time were kids using the tool; and whether increased time on the tool led to better performance in math, among other variables.

Schneider, who said he began his career as a science teacher, said that tools can provide a great resource for teachers, as long as they engage students more than the teacher can; accomplish something easier than the teacher; and deliver better outcomes. Studies like what WestEd is conducting through the IES grant, he said, can only help companies improve their products and make life easier for educators when choosing a tool.

“I hope that school districts begin to look for more evidence — less anecdotal and more data-driven evidence — before they spend their money. It would be prudent for them to spend their taxpayer dollars on products that have shown some efficacy,” he said. “Student learning should be the baseline for anyone that wants to buy a product.”
Giovanni Albanese Jr. is a staff writer for the Center for Digital Education. He has covered business, politics, breaking news and professional soccer over his more than 15-year reporting career. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Salem State University in Massachusetts.