Printed from Afterschool Curriculum Choice - Math
Location: http://www.sedl.org/afterschool/guide/math/


Curriculum Details for
VersaTiles Math


Program
Description
Practitioner Expert
Review
Content Expert
Review
VersaTiles Math
Publication Date: 2008
Grade Level: 1–8
Content Focus: Math
Costs: $79.95 (Starter Set), $325-395 (Full Grade Lab)
The costs shown were accurate at the time of the review. Please check the publisher's web site for current prices.
Developer Contact Information
ETA/Cuisenaire
500 Greenview Court
Vernon Hills, IL, 60061
800-445-5985
www.etacuisenaire.com/versatiles/versati
les_math.jsp

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Program Description

Design Summary

VersaTiles Math is designed as a supplemental mathematics program for both classroom and afterschool settings.  The program combines the challenge of a puzzle with the practice of a workbook, offering many activities that allow students to practice skills independently and at their own pace.  Students use an answer case to complete activities, in which numbered tiles are used to indicate answers to the activity’s multiple-choice questions. Once all questions in the activity are answered, the answer case is flipped over to reveal a pattern on the backside of the tiles. The pattern is used to check for accurately answered questions.  This way, students receive immediate feedback and may rethink solutions to the incorrectly answered questions until they are successful. The ability to make mistakes and self-correct fosters motivation and engagement in students.  Skills taught include: number concepts, estimation and computation, patterns, functions, algebra, geometry, measurement, probability, problem solving, and abstract thinking.

Curriculum materials include: Student Activity Books, Teacher Resource Guide, Answer Cases, and a Companion CD-ROM featuring all self-checking activities from the Student Activity Books. The CD-ROM may be used for setting up an interactive VersaTiles Center on classroom computers.

Costs and Staff Training

VersaTiles is available in a few different formats. Each full lab costs $325 per grade level, with the option to add the Companion CD-ROM for an additional $70. The Math Resource Library, including the full labs for grades 1-8, costs $1,995 or $2,695 including the CD-ROM. Starter sets are available for a cost of $79.95 per grade level.  Extra answer cases cost $119.95 for a set of ten.

VersaTiles Math Teacher’s Resource Guide offers program training and support designed to assist new or established math teachers and staff. The guide features correlations to NCTM Standards, detailed descriptions of each activity, classroom management tips, background information and suggestions for incorporating VersaTiles into the classroom, as well as assessment options and extension activities.

Staff Qualifications

Formal teaching experience is not required to implement VersaTiles Math. Content expert reviews agree, suggesting also that instructors should be able to monitor groups of students doing independent work. Practitioner expert stated that she has had high school students, serving as assistants in her summer school classroom, use VersaTiles effectively with younger students.

Standards Alignment

Research Base

VersaTiles is based on research linking conceptual understanding, practice of skills and concepts, and problem solving. The NCTM Standards are the foundation for the ETA/Cuisenaire VersaTiles Learning Lab for Mathematics, grades 1–8. Each lab is organized to match the NCTM Strands for that grade level. The detailed scope and sequence allows teachers to target practice to the needs and skill levels of individual students. For the full article “VersaTiles: A Research-Based Program for Targeting Practice in Mathematics and Reading/Language Arts,” visit http://www.etacuisenaire.com/pdf/grant/vtpositionpaper.pdf

Evaluation Details

None specified.

Overall Strengths/Overall Challenges

Strengths
  • Motivational and engaging for students.
  • Appeals to different learning styles.
  • Teaches skills and concepts in an engaging way.
  • Self-correcting feature provides immediate feedback to students, making problem solving more exciting.
  • Self-paced, students work at own level.
  • Effective supplemental daily practice.
  • Can be implemented in many different contexts.
  • Assessments, tracking forms, interview guide and notes, correlation of test to student’s books, and record charts are all useful.
Challenges
  • Little interaction with other students.
  • Does not address problem solving using manipulatives.
  • Direct instruction on skills from teacher is not a focus of this curriculum.

Practitioner Expert Review

Practitioner Expert Background

This practitioner has been teaching for six years in both American and International schools.  She has also been working at a summer school program for the past two years, and has used VersaTiles during that program for the past year.  She uses it regularly with a class of twelve students who just finished the fourth grade.  Most of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch, and they are from African American and Latino backgrounds.

Logistics

Training
  • Did not attend a formal training.
Set-up/preparation
  • Preparation consists of choosing which activity for students to do.
  • Ideal to use individually and in small groups. It can be important to observe students and make sure they understand the activities.

Student Engagement

  • Students love using the VersaTiles, and are usually enthusiastic to use them.
  • Students who struggle with attention and behavior stay engaged with the activities.
  • Students enjoy doing something active.
  • Students appreciate the immediate gratification of creating the correct pattern when they complete an activity correctly.
  • Colors and shapes in activity books help maintain students’ interest.

Content

Adaptability to instructor needs
  • VersaTiles can be used in many different ways, such as practicing skills.
  • Assessments are useful for determining students’ skill levels.
  • More advanced students can move on to harder questions while instructor focuses on helping the students who do not understand the material.
General skills taught
  • Basic phonics.
  • Cooperation when working with a partner.
  • Following directions.
Addressing diverse student needs
  • Tactile, students are always doing something with their hands.
  • Reaches many different kinds of learners.
  • Students of all backgrounds have enjoyed and felt engaged with VersaTiles.

Strengths and Challenges

Strengths
  • Motivational and engaging for students.
  • Appeals to different learning styles.
  • Teaches skills and concepts in an engaging way.
Challenges
  • This practitioner did not find any major challenges with using VersaTiles.

Content Expert Review

Content Expert Reviewer

Lisa Ting
Lisa Ting is currently involved with educational consulting projects and private tutoring. She previously taught first grade and fourth grade at Charles River School in Dover, Massachusetts. She was active in creating age-appropriate and engaging curricula in math, reading, writing and social studies. She is certified in Project Read and Math Curriculum at Dana Hall for grades 3-5. She received her Masters degree from Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2004 with interests in developmental psychology and after school programs.

Content

  • Each level (1-8) of the curriculum corresponds with the appropriate grade level, and includes eight student activity books and answer cases.
  • The five main strands covered throughout every level are Number and Number Concepts, Estimation and Computation, Pattern, Functions and Algebra, Geometry and Measurement, and Statistics and Probability.
  • Charts within the teacher’s guide provide a comprehensive scope and sequence overview of VersaTiles.  The charts are helpful for finding math problems that correlate to specific skill sets.
  • The content is accurate and compelling for students who prefer to check their own answers and work at their own pace.

Skills

Academic Skills
  • Number and number concepts
  • Estimation and computation
  • Patterns
  • Functions and algebra
  • Geometry and measurement
  • Statistics and probability
Study Skills
  • Helpful for students to be organized to effectively use the curriculum
Non-Academic Skills
  • Claims to build self-confidence as the students work independently.

Alignment to Standards

  • Versatiles is aligned with the standards of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).
  • In the teacher’s guide, there is a useful guide that summarizes the correlation between each book and the standards for that specific grade. The chart is clear and allows the teacher to look up information at a glance.

Assessment

  • Informal assessments such as interviews, observations, and self-evaluations.
  • Formal assessments are tests and work products.
  • The theory behind assessment is: “authentic assessment involves examining a student’s process as well as his/her work product in order to obtain a holistic perspective of the student’s progress”

Structure

  • VersaTiles is structured but teachers have some flexibility to individualize the curriculum.
  • Scope and sequence can be determined by the formal assessments and tests, which determine the appropriate starting level for each student.
  • Benchmark activities can help figure out which levels the students are at and help determine which strands they should focus on.
  • The content for each student varies depending on their level and focus. For example, students can skip over certain books if they have mastered the skills covered in those books.
  • Lessons are student-directed, as students work independently through the exercises, but teachers can guide and help the students if they run into problems.

Addressing Diverse Student Needs

Adaptability
  • Books are available in different levels according to skills
  • Students can move from book to book depending on their needs
  • The curriculum is less adaptable for children with behavioral issues or physical challenges.
Developmental level
  • VersaTiles seems well-tailored to the developmental needs for this age group.
  • Working in small groups is a useful option.
Learning Styles Addressed
  • Movement/spatial learning: This is not explicitly addressed by the curriculum.
  • Interpersonal learning: Small group work is allowed.
Multiculturalism
  • VersaTiles does not explicitly address students’ diverse backgrounds.

Strengths and Challenges

Strongest Features
  • Self-correcting feature provides immediate feedback to students, making problem solving more exciting.
  • Self-paced, students work at own level.
  • Effective supplemental daily practice.
  • Can be implemented in many different contexts, including summer school, extra credit in a math class, or home lending library.
  • Assessments, tracking forms, interview guide and notes, correlation of test to student’s books, and record charts are all very useful.
Challenges and Drawbacks
  • Lack of interaction with other students.
  • Lack of problem solving using manipulatives.
  • Direct instruction on skills from teacher is not a focus of this curriculum.

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