Math scores up 30 percentage points

Total Motivation gives me so many ideas and activities for each standard.

Jennifer Klason
Greensboro, NC
Math scores up 30 points


“We don’t even have a math book,” explains Sedgefield Elementary’s curriculum facilitator, Katrina Daniel, in Greensboro, North Carolina. With the move to Common Core, she says that teachers were “left to their own devices” to find standards-based math resources. This was Jennifer Klason’s challenge in her fourth-grade math class—spending too much of her time finding materials that “really met what the students were going to be tested on.” The large ESL population and challenges of being a Title 1 school compounded the issue. According to state testing, 18 out of her 24 students were below grade level. “There is no middle ground,” she explains of her mix of low and high learners.

Student raises her hand during a math lesson at Sedgefield Elementary.

Ms. Klason’s students participate in a group lesson.


Ms. Daniel selected Total Motivation Math for all teachers after testing it the prior year with her fourth-grade students, who had made “significant gains” in math. This made it a natural choice for the 2016–2017 school year. “Basically, for us it all boils downs to, ‘Are they going to do well on the test?’” Ms. Klason explains, “I want them to be prepared, and I think Total Motivation Math does that.”

Ms. Klason prefers to start each new unit, which maps to a focus standard, with whole group instruction. She takes advantage of the whiteboard feature to display the Student Edition (SE) of Total Motivation Math as students follow along. Sedgefield does not offer 1-to-1 technology, so students work primarily in their print edition rather than online.

When she first began using Total Motivation Math, she found that using the Getting Started activities and Instructional Strategies available in the Teacher Edition (TE) helps students adjust to the rigor before jumping into the activities in the SE. She also uses the Introduction and Vocabulary activities in the TE to help students become familiar with the new content.

At the end of class, Ms. Klason considers Motivation Station to be a “great wrap up,” especially for higher-level students needing a challenge. She sometimes differentiates assignments at this step, letting higher-level learners work independently and “scaffolding the lower kids” who are “doing the rigorous thinking with just a bit more assistance.” According to Ms. Daniel, one key to their success has been shortening the length of whole group instruction to be able to meet more individual needs.

For so long, I made a lot of my own materials, so to have Total Motivation Math to use as a resource is fabulous.

The next day after a review, Ms. Klason demonstrates a few problems for the whole class, assigning other problems for Partner Practice and reserving the final problem for Independent Practice. By mid-week they are primarily involved in Partner Practice, and she assigns Independent Practice as homework. The end of the week also focuses on the Critical Thinking activity in the SE to reinforce learning before giving the Assessment on Friday. To address learning gaps, Ms. Klason uses the TE’s suggested Intervention activities as part of her centers.

Principal Michele Simmons adds, “It’s not an overwhelming, daunting task to create these awesome lessons. It’s already created for teachers. They just have to implement and facilitate.”

Students use a protractor for an activity in Total Motivation Math.

Fourth-grade students work together during Partner Practice.


Increased Scores

After using Total Motivation Math 5 hours a week during the 2016–2017 school year, class scores improved by 30 percentage points based on pre- and post-assessments that measured student improvement in standards mastery from October to May. Midway through the year, Ms. Daniel noted Ms. Klason’s scores were “the best I’ve seen in the five years I have been here.”

Seamless Alignment to the Standards

Ms. Daniel credits Total Motivation Math with empowering her teachers to “seamlessly align our state standards with what they need to be doing.” Ms. Klason benefits from the suggested Introduction Activities in the TE that give a “wealth of ideas” to introduce the standard in whole group instruction or in centers. Throughout the SE, she has “access to quality problems for students,” which lets her focus her time on her passion for teaching and improving instruction.

Gaining Strides in Vocabulary

Total Motivation Math has helped ESL students who are at risk of falling behind in reading skills. “The vocabulary cards and activities really help students learn the terms well,” Ms. Klason says. The SE presents many questions with pictures and diagrams, which she considers an excellent aid for struggling readers. The TE also suggests vocabulary games, something her students love. Having the necessary vocabulary at the start of the lesson helps “students be able to deal with the content,” adds Ms. Daniel.

Rigor That Leads to Results

Since using Total Motivation Math, student achievement is up. “I like how rigorous it is,” says Ms. Klason. “Kids do struggle with it,” she explains, but the challenge is “what they need.” Her higher-level learners can figure it out on their own, allowing her to “focus in on those targeted students that need some extra assistance.” Interventions provided in the TE give Ms. Klason ideas to help her “target students who are struggling” and make word problems more comprehensible. “That’s what I like to see,” explains Ms. Klason, “that ‘ding, ding, ding’ when the light goes on.”

“Working Smarter, Not Harder”

“I feel good about knowing that my students are going to experience quality learning . . . where they are challenged to think critically and have opportunities to apply these concepts,” explains Ms. Daniel. She knows her teachers are teaching the standards because of how thoroughly the TE unpacks each one. Ms. Daniel has observed that Ms. Klason is not nearly as stressed as before. “She is working smarter, not harder,” Ms. Daniel adds. Ms. Klason agrees, saying, “I think I have an advantage because I have materials that are much more ready to go and easy to use.”

“Seeing the growth . . . it’s just amazing to me how much they can learn and show you by the end of the year,” Ms. Klason says.

A Week in the Classroom with Total Motivation Math

Ms. Klason uses the wealth of activities found in Total Motivation Math to introduce new content, differentiate instruction, address learning gaps, and assess standards mastery. With all the resources and strategies right there, she spends more time teaching and less time prepping.

Weekly Instructional Plans

Lower-Level GroupsHigher-Level Groups
Introduce content during whole group instruction with Introduction activities in TE. Model problems from the SE on the whiteboard as students follow along in print.
Work directly with small groups or one-on-one.Assign Motivation Station (SE) to independent learners.
Assign Partner Practice for classroom work and Independent Practice as homework. Use the Critical Thinking activity (SE) in class to reinforce learning.
Give the Assessment (SE) to evaluate standard mastery and plan centers to address learning gaps using the Intervention activities suggested in the TE.

TE=Teacher Edition / SE=Student Edition