The Edmond Sun

May 22, 2013

SEAS ranks No. 1 in Oklahoma in First in Math online program

Students, teachers earn recognition

Patty Miller
CNHI News Service

EDMOND — Students at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton were rewarded for their mathematics skills Monday in an all-school assembly as they received the No. 1 spot in a national online math program. In addition to the students, two teachers were also recognized for the number of math problems they solved correctly.

First in Math online program representative Debra Knight was on hand to help SEAS students celebrate solving more than 1.7 million math problems through the First in Math Online Program.

“First in Math is a dynamic, self-paced, web-based mathematics practice program that has been proven to help students master math skills through the use of game-style activities that provide immediate feedback,” said Debra Knight, education consultant for First in Math online program.  

More than 365 kindergarten-eighth grade students correctly solved, on average, 4,740 math problems each to achieve the top school honor in the state with many students solving more than 10,000 problems.

In order to achieve first place — in the last hours of the contest — SEAS students overtook the team that had held the top spot for four months.

For each three problems solved, students received a sticker.

“SEAS students placed first in the state with 1,589 stickers per student on average,” Knight said. “And No. 2 in the state in total math problems solved by completing 1,741,197 problems correctly.”

Through the First in Math program, students are encouraged and motivated to practice and improve their math skills both during their free time at school and at home throughout the school year. First In Math is a supplement to curriculum designed to provide the “deep practice” that accelerates mastering the concepts they learn in the classroom and is open to public as well as private schools.

The program includes a friendly competition component, where St. Elizabeth’s kindergarten-eighth grade students competed against their classmates, as well as other schools in the district, state and nationwide, for top honors.

“St. Elizabeth’s students set many records this year,” Knight said.

Sharon Lieurance’s second grade class was second in the state in solving the most problems, and April McCann’s kindergarten class was third.

“Seeing a classroom filled with students after school excited to do math was awesome,” said Principal Angie Howard. “The First in Math online program has sparked a new love for math with our kids. Finishing first in the state was just icing on the cake.”

The First in Math program has already helped millions of students achieve proficiency in basic and advanced math skills in thousands of schools across the country.

Numerous school districts have seen standardized test results in math improve dramatically as a result of using the program, Knight said.

The combination of “deep practice” and immediate feedback is the heart of the First in Math program. This methodology helps students grasp and understand difficult concepts by breaking them down into manageable segments and providing instant feedback to help them make adjustments to their technique to improve their skills, similar to the way students would receive feedback in the physical realm when playing sports, for example. First in Math provides this vital feedback loop that’s missing from most curricula. The game-style format engages students so they willingly spend many more hours a week practicing math.

The program covers the six foundation skills required for advanced mathematics, including basic facts, fractions, decimals, integers, exponents and order of operations. Students play the wide variety of games — during free time at school and by logging in to play from home — earning virtual stickers that accrue like points to their individual, classroom, school and district-wide score.

“The friendly competition, makes for a lively, motivating experience that not only engages students in math practice, but can actually further enhance the overall culture of success at the school,” Knight said.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Middle School math teacher Dean Hoffhines said the SEAS students raced to claim the No. 1 title in the state beating out approximately 80 other schools.  

“I’ve always believed in high expectations. So in the final week, when we decided to make a run for first place in the state, we gave every student and every class a high (but achievable) goal to work towards,” Hoffines said. “Even though I knew our students were capable of doing the work, it was an awesome experience to watch them not only do the work, but to do it with enthusiasm.”

Solving 1.7 million problems in total, approximately 525,000 problems were solved in the last week of the contest, allowing the students to finish in first place.

First in Math is entirely web-based, which means that students can practice math skills from anywhere with an Internet connection. This affordable program also includes teacher tools to help students get started, track individual student progress, and keep them motivated throughout the school year.  

Hoffhines placed No. 1 in the state and No. 14 in the nation in the number of problems he solved (105,000). He was also named the Outstanding Anchor in Oklahoma for driving his school to be the top in the state.

Lori Makanani placed No. 3 in the state among teachers and No. 86 nationally solving 40,000 math problems correctly.

Instant feedback is used to supplement the classroom curriculum and motivate students to practice math in the same way they practice sports, music or other activities they enjoy. The program is sold to private and public schools and school districts on a per-student annual subscription basis. First in Math is developed and distributed by Suntex International, a private company headquartered in Easton, Pa. For more information, visit