Sarah McMaster strives to bring innovative experiences to her students. With out-of-the-box thinking and creativity as hallmarks in her classroom, the 4th-grade teacher in Albuquerque, NM never stops bringing the fun. “I think kids (and people in general) learn best with hands-on, unusual materials and innovative experiences. I don't have desks in my classroom. We have wobble stools, yoga balls, swings, and even bikes so students can move and learn wherever best suits them. I'm lucky to work at Horizon Academy West because they understand that one approach doesn't work for everyone,” said McMaster.
Horizon Academy West is a Pre-K through 5th-grade public charter school serving gifted and talented students, students with IEPs, English Language Learners, and bilingual students. 67% of students receive free and reduced lunch at this Title I campus. McMaster taught her group of 4th-grade students the previous year in 3rd grade, allowing her to foster strong student relationships and witness unique math proficiency growth over time.
An accidental discovery
“I was teaching 3rd grade, and fact fluency was a major struggle,” said the teacher. McMaster searched for other programs to supplement instruction and found ExploreLearning Reflex. “I found Reflex by mistake,” recalled McMaster. After discovering the platform, McMaster and her teaching colleague applied for the Reflex Grant Program. “We were successful, and it was a game-changer.”
The proof is in the data
After implementing Reflex, McMaster noticed a positive change in students’ math fact fluency and computation capabilities. “We watched our baseline data begin to change. Students were able to learn their facts through fact-family games. We were shocked!” After a period of administration transition, McMaster and her teammates worked hard to showcase the power and value of Reflex. “After seeing our data, our new administrator was happy to purchase Reflex for the whole school.”
But increased scores weren’t the only positive byproduct after introducing Reflex. “As students’ fact fluency increased, their confidence grew. Their skills started to skyrocket. It was new to have such a positive reaction to learning math,” said McMaster.
“Reflex is just one of the grants that helped change my classroom. My data has never been the same. Using Reflex changed everything.”
Gamification makes a difference
With Reflex, students “wanted to practice because of the gamification,” said the teacher. “Reflex makes working on math facts fun and exciting.” Thankfully for McMaster’s students, there are plenty of opportunities to practice math facts with Reflex.
In her classroom, McMaster later implemented ExploreLearning Frax, an interactive fractions solution. “Reflex and Frax are part of our morning routines. Students log in and start their math programs daily. Many log in over the weekend. As a 4-day school, we have to pack more academics into our week. Reflex and Frax are changing how proficient our students are in math. Fact fluency is changing how my students receive and express their skills in math,” said McMaster. “My students are very competitive,” noted McMaster. Her students love daily morning leaderboard check-ins to see who has solved the most facts. “My class data is off the charts and keeps growing.”
“We have used a variety of math programs, but there is nothing out there like Reflex and Frax. Reflex and Frax are making math facts fun to learn and fraction basics engaging. They keep my students’ attention, and the data is incredible.”
Having looped up with her students for two years of instruction, McMaster witnessed the long-lasting impact of Reflex and Frax firsthand. “These students are on such a high growth path that it's a no-brainer. Reflex and Frax are game changers in elementary school. I attribute much of their success to their journey through Reflex Math and Frax.”
“I plan to continue changing the landscape of education so that my students will be ready to tackle and even change the world,” said McMaster. “These programs could be used in upper grades and middle school as recovery courses. Students don't mind the practice because the mini-games are fun. If I ever move into an Instructional Coach position, Reflex and Frax would be my first go-to.”
Sarah McMaster has been teaching at Horizon Academy West for 19 years. “I'm lucky to work at Horizon Academy West because they understand that one approach doesn't work for everyone.” She is a mother of five.