Zeal: Teaching Math with Tickets and Tutors

Intensive tutoring is part of Houston’s effort school turnaround. It was a centerpiece of the effort because Harvard’s Roland Fryer identified it as one of the interventions that made the most difference in high performing schools. However, it’s the most expensive part of the school improvement program. A couple of startups are trying to change that.

Zeal. After selling NetGravity, software engineer John Danner taught fifth grade in a high poverty Nashville school for three years. With Preston Smith, Danner launched and scaled Rocketship Education, the first blended elementary network. In 2013, launched Zeal to advance personalized learning.

With 15,000 questions in both literacy and math, Zeal makes it really simple for teachers to conduct a quick end of class check–an exit ticket. Questions which align with the Common Core, SBAC and PARCC standards.

Danner’s co-founder TJ Marston said, “Zeal Exit Ticket is a free assessment tool that allows teachers to give quick high quality assessments to their students and get in the moment feedback on performance.”

Students earn coins while working towards goals on assessments and have the opportunity to create fun characters and stay engaged. One thousand teachers use Zeal for quick checks. A sample report is shown below.


Next on the roadmap is live math tutoring. The affordable live audio and screen share service is being piloted in 35 schools in K-5 math. Tutoring for secondary math is next on the roadmap.

Math Friendzy. Alex Lluch, author of over 300 bestselling books which have sold over 4.5 million copies, is the creator of Math Friendzy, what he calls a “Collaborative Learning System.” Tutors are students from the same schools or nearby high schools and/or colleges that can tutor remotely and anonymously in exchange for community service hours. Volunteer tutors allows Math Friendzy to offer free tutoring to all their students for very little cost. The app is available in the iTunes and Google store.

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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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Tom Vander Ark

See KQED recap of a new study on benefits of tutoring


Kathleen A Magana

This KQED article doesn't demonstrate anything about ZEAL. Any program could use it to rationalize their platform?

Jim Thompson

Regarding Zeal ; it really still seems like it's in development. The interface is clunky and unprofessional, and my previous interaction with Zeal staffers found them to be unreasonable and unprofessional. The concept is great - but the execution is highly, highly lacking. Would advise users to find another platform, or to wait it out until Zeal gets itself together.

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