NoRedInk and Mathspace Shake up Online Learning

By Maxwell Miracle, Copy Editor

In an increasingly online learning environment, it is difficult to escape the sound of mouse clicks and keyboard taps. This thorough integration has been driven in large part by online resources such as Blackboard and Google Classroom. These familiar educational staples have been used since before the arrival of most current students. Even so, the emergence of two newly introduced online services named NoRedInk and Mathspace is poised to further change the way students learn.

NoRedInk offers adaptive exercises that shape themselves around the interests of users. For example, students who enjoy the “Harry Potter” book series might find themselves correcting sentences about potions class. NoRedInk uses a combination of diagnostics, practice activities, and quizzes to establish a baseline for each user and measure their growth over time.

“Students can see their ability to advance on a certain grammar and writing skill based on where they first started,” said Mrs. Alyce Warren, English Department chair. “I’m also really excited for the peer review aspect. Once students master a skill, they can then peer review others on that same skill.”

Mathspace, a self-described global technology leader in personalized math education, claims to “tailor programs in real-time” for the specific needs of each student. It accomplishes this by using algorithms to customize problem sets and provide instant feedback to let students know when they get a question wrong. The student can then seek virtual assistance in the form of hints or instructive videos to guide them to an understanding of the correct answer.

Because Mathspace is an Australian company, it sometimes recommends problem-solving strategies that differ from those taught by Virginia teachers. These discrepancies can pose an obstacle to effective learning. However, according to math teacher Mr. Mark Steinberg, “Mathspace is planning to revamp the program for next year to better reflect the FCPS curriculum.”

In addition, some students take issue with the rigid nature of the service. “There’s a certain level of variability on your paper that human teachers are able to realize,” said 10th grade class president Jack Child. “Computers don’t have that sort of judgment or near-recognition.” For example, the accidental use of a comma instead of a decimal point in an otherwise correct answer might be marked as incorrect by Mathspace, whereas a teacher could look past the formatting error and recognize the student’s understanding of the concept.

In an effort to address this challenge, many teachers use Mathspace to supplement learning instead of assessing it. “I don’t grade Mathspace the way I would grade a quiz or test,” Mr. Steinberg said. “My goal in using it is to help students practice what they have learned.”