Making classroom magic with MAP Accelerator

There’s an episode of The Office where regional manager Michael Scott needs to make some extra cash. He moonlights as a telemarketer, selling the Lipophedrine diet pill. “What if I told you that I have a pill that would make you 50 pounds lighter in five minutes?” he asks. “It won’t be that fast, but it will be that easy.”

As a teacher, I am frequently sold to. Whether it’s a mysterious offer in my inbox or acres of booths at a conference, I represent a buyer on behalf of my students. And all my fellow teachers will agree: some products are excellent, and some, like Michael’s, are all pomp, no circumstance. So what makes us turn our heads, linger at the booth, click on the email? Something that helps us achieve multiple goals at once.

In my math classroom, I have goals: I want engagement from the moment they walk in. I want high-quality, rigorous activities that keep that engagement throughout our time together. I want students to have as much differentiated attention as possible. I want learner agency. I want growth. I want confidence in the midst of wrong answers. I want silliness in the midst of structure. I want classroom tools that help me check off multiple items on my list.

MAP Accelerator: Maximizing goals

I recently watched a webinar called Ready, set, simplify: Practical strategies for getting started with MAP Accelerator, led by real-life teacher Shawna Burger, who hosted the webinar from her classroom in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Shawna is a middle school math specialist whose perspective aligns with mine: we both want real-life solutions with Monday-morning-ready applicability.

Whenever students can participate in intervention time, even if it’s not hosted by a math teacher, MAP Accelerator is ready.

Just to catch you up: MAP® Accelerator™ (powered by teacher fave Khan Academy) is a digital, supplemental math tool for grades 3–8, aligned to Common Core and state standards and available in English and Spanish. It syncs with MAP® Growth™ data to recommend “starting lines” for students. For about 30 minutes a week, students log in and interact with differentiated Khan Academy–powered learning pathways to strengthen their math skills. Teachers remain in the driver’s seat and are able to customize skills paths and generate reports.

Shawna already stars in a resource I love: “10 ways to use MAP Accelerator: For educators, from educators.” In the webinar, she expands on some of her tips.

Shawna highlighted three ways MAP Accelerator can—in my words—bring the utopian math classroom closer to reality. There’s not a magic pill, but maybe there’s a tool that can support multiple goals I have for my students.

#1: A classroom with math engagement

Picture this: Your students walk in the room (or transition to math time) and get started immediately with a differentiated, customized set of math questions. In just five or 10 minutes, students are focused on math and deep within a learning mindset. Whether you want students to review, preview, extend, or bolster their skills—and whether every student needs something different or not—MAP Accelerator kicks off class the right way.

Shawna’s words: “You may call it a warm-up, a bellringer, a ‘do-now.’ Whatever you call it, the goal is always the same: we want students actively engaged and in a learning mindset at the start.”

Where to start watching the webinar: Around 10:10.

What tips to check out: Tip 2, “Establish a routine,” and tip 10, “Instill a consistent culture.”

#2: A classroom with math differentiation

One of the buzzwords I’ve been hearing a lot lately is “math workshop.” I picture a makerspace, abuzz with math activities, all Montessori-ly happening as students autonomously choose what they need in terms of math. Ideal, right? But, of course, in practice, this is challenging. We need centers, stations, multiple pathways, and enough supports and extensions in place for the permutations of our learners.

Shawna brings MAP Accelerator into the core instruction: as a small group tool, as an extension option, as a center. MAP Accelerator brings us closer to a math workshop with very little set up, improv, or rushing to the printer to give that fast-finisher another activity. Plus, teachers can designate which instructional area students should work in—allowing for targeted practice aligned with the current curriculum.

Shawna’s words: “Effectively running small groups can be tricky. At my middle school, I have a handful of teachers who are eager to run small groups because it’s highly effective, but they wonder how they will manage the groups and ensure students are engaged in high-quality tasks. MAP Accelerator is a key part of their success story.”

Where to start watching the webinar: Around 12:20.

What tips to check out: Tip 3, “Integrate with core instruction,” and tip 4, “Meet the needs of high achievers.”

#3: A classroom with math accountability and intervention

How do we support our students who need intervention? How do we maximize the minutes in a student’s school day, while not cloning our math teachers to be in two places at once? And most importantly, how do we reward and celebrate students’ success?

Students who used MAP Accelerator for a mere 30 minutes a week made higher-than-expected math gains—and this was during the pandemic.

Shawna recommends sitting down with students about their RIT ranges and “having a discussion about how working in their weakest area will make them a more well-rounded math student.” The success that Shawna describes is palpable. Students document their hard work, students track their progress, and goals are set in math notebooks: “I gained 12% and leveled up on three skills!” (Teacher heart explosion!)

Additionally—and to my practical brain’s delight—Shawna reassures that non-math specialists at her school are excellent facilitators of MAP Accelerator because of its ease of use. Whenever students can participate in intervention time, even if it’s not hosted by a math teacher, MAP Accelerator is ready.

Shawna’s words: “This is my jam. This is the bulk of what I do in a day. I’m really passionate about how I use MAP Accelerator for intervention.”

Where to start watching the webinar: Around 16:33.

What tips to check out: Tip 5, “Formatively assess students,” tip 6, “Aid intervention,” and tip 10, “Instill a consistent culture.”

It’s not magic; it’s MAP Accelerator

The second half of the webinar (starting around 23:18) introduces a new study, the results of which indicate that students who used MAP Accelerator for a mere 30 minutes a week made higher-than-expected math gains—and this was during the pandemic. The webinar also announces new features to MAP Accelerator (do not miss the announcement of the coteaching features, around 38:05) and lists several professional learning opportunities for using MAP Accelerator.

Shawna concludes by saying, “You know the gaps are there. Once we uncover them, we cannot ignore them. The results are proven. My students and I have a mantra: ‘We will move mountains.’ Put MAP Accelerator in your toolbelt, and get out there and move some mountains!”

There isn’t a magic pill. I can’t add minutes to the school day. I can’t multiply myself. But I can choose tools that achieve many goals in my room, are informed by data to personalize instruction, and offer turnkey deployment. Maybe I can move some mountains.

To learn more about MAP Accelerator, connect with your school’s NWEA partner or contact us.

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