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A pilot group of schools in Newark, N.J., the state’s largest school district, are utilizing a new tool in an effort to close the achievement gap.

School officials there are encouraging parents to download a free math app that, as stated in at least one major study, improves math scores, according to NJ.com.

Bedtime Math is an iPhone application that parents can use along with a story at night. The app’s designer, Laura Overdeck, told NJ.com that the math questions include ninjas, chocolate chips, and “weird animals.” There are no scores involved, so it’s stress-free.

Overdeck, an astrophysicist by training, developed the app two years ago as an engaging way for parents and children to solve math problems together. She now has an enthusiastic partner to promote the benefits of her app.

“This is the first time we’re partnering with a school district, because we’re pushing recreational math, she told NJ.com. “We’re just so excited that teachers are taking the time to let parents know, ‘hey, do this fun stuff at home.’ It’s not the pedagogy. It’s playful.”

The Newark school district is promoting the app to parents as a voluntary tool – not homework.

“This is just another resource for the parents to use, outside of the core (classroom) resources. It’s kind of actually a bonding experience for the parent and the child,” the district’s Special Assistant of Math Pre-K-5 supervisor Darlene DeVries told NJ.com.

The University of Chicago evaluated nearly 600 first-graders and their parents who used Bedtime Math. According to the researchers, “Adding math talk to story time at home is a winning equation for children’s math achievement.”

These students outperformed the control group by almost three months. Parents who used the app with their child only once a week also benefitted.

The school district is using the app in six pilot schools for grades K-2. Parents are encouraged to use Bedtime Math for five minutes before bedtime, at least a couple of nights weekly. Officials expect to introduce the app to the entire district next fall.


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