Lab News

  • WQED’s math iQ and “The Big Gig” Musical

    August 17, 2015

    A new program funded by Ready to Learn is yielding impressive results.

    A pilot math program developed by WQED and supported by a Ready to Learn grant and CPB is showing promising results after its first year working with pre-kindergarten to elementary students, and their families, in at-risk communities around Pittsburgh.

    The program, called math iQ, launched in September of 2014 with a unique approach to stimulating and building math skills in early learners. The program was designed for educators to meet with students monthly over the course of the school year. In each session, older and younger students were paired to work closely on structured activities, media and games, developed around PBS KIDS programming, Peg + Cat and Odd Squad.

    The unique, mentoring piece to the program paired third graders, who were recommended by their teachers, with pre-k and kindergarten learners to encourage students to communicate what they had learned, and build confidence. A critical take-home component invited parents and students to work together on simple and fun math activities outside of the classroom to reinforce learning and empower parents around math.

    "The success of the math iQ program has exceeded my expectations of the outcomes when partnering high-quality digital media resources from Ready to Learn with hands-on experiences in a school setting,” said Cathy Cook, Manager of Digital Early Learner Projects and Professional Development at WQED. “Participation in math iQ has fostered gains in math skills, which I expected, but also in areas such as transition, collaboration with peers, family engagement, and English language acquisition. I am so incredibly proud of the impact of the math iQ program."

    Three schools in the Pittsburgh area were chosen to pilot the program, based on need. One hundred fifteen children (and their families) took part. The schools reflected the variety of exposure and experience that classrooms have with technology, and how teachers adapt. For example, one pilot school used media and technology frequently in the classroom, while the remaining schools had minimum to no access to technology. “math iQ was designed to be effective in all schools, regardless of the technological resources available to teachers,” explained Jennifer Stancil, Executive Director of Educational Partnership at WQED.
    Program toolkits were developed for the three pilot schools, and contained materials to support each of the nine monthly math interventions. Kits included nine learning modules and physical, color copies of the activities used. Many schools are unable to color-copy, and math activities often use color coding and shading to emphasize concepts, said Stancil. Nine additional toolkits were developed and will be distributed to chosen schools.

    Participating schools in the pilot program also received iPads and an Osmo, an educational gaming accessory for the iPad; ear buds, and a program toolkit.

    The program held community events to mark each phase, from a kick-off event in September, to a mobile media lab, “App-a-thon,” that allowed parents and kids to test iPads and games during the year, access training and free app codes, and download PBS materials to mobile devices.

    This first year of math iQ culminated in a hugely successful “Big Gig Musical” this past May. Kids wrote and performed their own mathematical musical incorporating their own ideas as well as songs from Peg + Cat and Odd Squad.

    The University of Pittsburgh has partnered with WQED to study the effectiveness of math iQ, specifically the take-home component. The study will look at how the program influenced or augmented the math that students did at home, while also assessing the parents’ anxiety with math. The results of the study are expected to be published in the fall of 2015 and will inform future iterations of the program, said Stancil.

    For more information on math iQ:

    Watch: WQED Remake Learning: WQED's math iQ

    Read an overview of the math iQ program