High Schoolers Game Their Way To College Math Readiness

It’s expected that a significant percentage of college-bound students will fail their first college math course. That dramatically reduces the percentage of students who earn a college degree particularly in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Alleyoop, a college readiness network for teens, identified this growing gap in math learning through rounds of service testing in online tutoring and gaming. “Students were voting with their clicks around what areas they wanted the most help,” says Patrick Supanc, President of Alleyoop. “This happened to be mostly math.”
In February 2012, Alleyoop launched it first public beta to help B- and C-grade middle school and high school students bridge the learning gap to success in entry-level college math courses. Today, Alleyoop assists more than 30,00 views to the site daily from parents and students looking to supplement their classroom instruction.
In Asia, we see a robust consumer education market where families place a great deal of value, funding and effort on forging academic and career paths. Culturally, we haven’t yet developed as strong of a consumer market for education and learning in the United States, says Supanc. Yet, this is changing – slowly.
“We’re convinced that we’re entering a world where students and families are going to have to have more agency over their academic path,” says Supanc, “and where service providers are going to have to recommend goals with efficient and effective ways to achieve these goals.”
“Most parents are priced out of consumer education tools and high-end tutoring,” says Supanc. “We can leverage technology to bring high-grade learning to a broader range of consumers.”
The best way to engage teens is to address their needs and draw them into a broader conversation, says Supanc. When students are preparing for their next algebra test or looking for the next math course to take, it’s a good time to talk about preparation in the long haul for college readiness.
“Oftentimes, students discover that they need to go further back in their math review,” says Supanc. “We have to continue to find ways to keep them engaged in remedial activities.”
The team chose to travel down the avenue of games because of games’ ability to draw students in and engage them on challenging subject areas. Alleyoop’s recommendation engine has the ability to tweak challenges, outcomes and levels based on user data under the hood of the platform. This makes it increasingly possible to align games to Common Core State Standards and personalized learning.
“We’re really trying to emphasize personalized learning,” says Supanc. The platform can adjust suggested learning material, levels and content based on a student’s performance in the game.
Pearson is incubating Alleyoop. As a digital product strategy executive at Pearson, Supanc reviewed a number of potential acquisitions in the consumer category before proposing the internal startup. Alleyoop leverages Pearson content as well as working with a variety of content partners, ranging from start-ups to Pearson competitors.
“We want to provide an environment to reteach deficiencies and push the areas where students excel,” says Supanc. “It’s important for parents and students to consider ways to take direct control over their learning success, and ultimately their college success.”
Alleyoop will soon be expanding into subjects beyond math to provide a comprehensive college readiness toolset for teens.

Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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Marion Dickmann

Alleyoop appears to be a great supplemental learning tool for any student desiring to improve their math scores. I was intrigued after reading this post and decided to look at the website. Alleyoop uses a set of algorithms to personalize the learning experience by tailoring the math problems to the needs of the student according to how the student responds to the assignments. This is certainly a big plus since it avoids a lot of unnecessary and repetitive work that may bore the student. A big drawback, though, is the price. The president of the company states that “most parents are priced out of consumer education tools and high-end tutoring.” This is certainly true and, even though Alleyoop is less expensive than a weekly private tutor, parents still need to be aware that they will be paying a monthly fee for this service that may still be too high for some families struggling in this economy.

Gerard LaFond

@Marion Dickmann - thanks for your thoughtful comments and for checking out Alleyoop. (Disclosure: I work for Alleyoop) I would just point out that our network is free to use and through earning Yoops, our virtual currency, you can get a ton of value out of it without ever paying a penny. Users earn Yoops every day they log in, and for every Mission and Challenge they complete. If they don't want to work through missions and challenges, they can also buy Yoops or subscribe.

Dave Walsh ECI 509-Dr. Setser

I went on your site, I know I am not a teen, but I am a 7th grade math and science teacher and I am interested in bridging the gap between math classes. I like the fact that the kids get to "choose" the areas that they need help on, that leads to more buy-in then many of the review sites and games that the students normally use. Many of the math review games are either very linear or they are more game then educational and the kids get bored with them either way. I think that the ability to earn their way to the next level will keep more students involved. There needs to more games and support like this to help those bubble kids, you referred to them as B/C kids, especially with high schools going to a block schedule where the student may not have a math class for a year at a time. Thanks for making your content available, especially since tutoring is expensive and it doesn't reach all of the kids. I really think technology should be used to level the playing field for all of the kids and not just add resources for the fortunate.

Danielle Lamb

I was unaware that so many college students struggle with or even fail their math course. This fact most definitely impacts the lack of students pursuing a degree in math or science, which is a subject area that is greatly needed to help improve the nation's global competitiveness. Alleyoop appears to be a wonderful way to help students overcome any barriers they may have in getting supplemental help. Gaming is a big industry and attracts many middle and high school students, and so I think this is a great way to help teach math. Hopefully this approach will go a step further and help instill a greater interest and passion into math and science.
-Danielle, Student of Dr. Setser (NCSU)

Brittany Seperack

I love Alleyoops' approach to provide students with math remediation through games. During my undergraduate career I needed a tutor for most math courses that I took, as well as some of the science courses. I did well in my classes because I had a tutor, so I was amazed at how much I didn't know when it came time to take the GRE! I wondered, how is it possible that I recently mastered calculus and am now struggling with some of this basic arithmetic and trigonometry? The answer of course is that I simply hadn't used much of this information since first learning it is high school. Using a fun and interactive game program to review these facts would have been a great alternative to the hours that I spent studying and re-learning!
Brittany Seperack
Dr. Setser's ECI 509

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