Summer School Program Boosts Math Engagement in Georgia

Teachers report embodied learning in summer school math classes improves lesson retention and engagement for K-8 students

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Math Engagement
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of Clayton County teachers surveyed said that Unruly Math improved their students’ overall math outcomes.


students attended Clayton County School summer program.


of Clayton County teachers surveyed said Unruly Math created a positive association with math for their students.



For students, gaps in math education can often set them back, which can be overwhelming and discouraging, often resulting in general disengagement from math. 

In the Clayton County School District’s Summer School Math Study, students were identified as performing one or more grade level(s) below grade level in math.

“It all starts with the foundation. If students don’t have the basic understanding of numbers, the older they get, the more difficult math understanding becomes” — said Vanese Shaw, teacher at the Clayton County School District.  

In a series of interviews conducted across school districts, math administrators unanimously agreed that student engagement and math performance are top priorities irrespective of whether their school focuses on math facts or if it prioritizes practical application of math concepts. Most district leaders were moving their districts towards a focus on practical application and encouraging students to use different strategies to solve problems over memorization.

Diane Owens, Curriculum Coordinator at Effingham County Schools in Georgia, says that while focusing on memorization of math facts in their curriculum, practical application remains critical. The district implements math modeling to solve real-life problems, which increases the students’ engagement and understanding.  

Administrators say that teacher engagement is equally important. 

When it comes to any new technology in the classroom, “teachers have to buy into it, otherwise they’re not going to use it,” Derelle McMenomy, Math Director at the Jackson County School System, said.


For their summer program, the Clayton County School District was looking for an innovative and engaging way to bring math to their students. Teachers and administrators searched for a way to provide extra math practice and reinforcement for students who were falling behind. The summer program was optional and not required for students and families, which made their search particularly targeted to find something authentically fun for students that would bring them back throughout the summer and help them engage positively in productive struggle.

The goal was to find ways to solidify the math concepts that were taught throughout the year, as well as to work on the students’ motivation and positive associations toward math. The challenge was finding a way to authentically engage students while also engaging teachers and ensuring Unruly Math was easy to use and implement.  


After reviewing numerous options, the Clayton County School District chose Unruly Math as the solution for math engagement and reinforcement. The program was implemented in summer schools across 10 sites, which included 70 teachers and over 2,000 students. 

In the classrooms, Unruly Math was used to focus on kinesthetic play while reinforcing core foundational math skills at each grade level in alignment with the new Georgia state standards.  

Unruly provided full in-person initial training as well as ongoing in-classroom support throughout the summer. 

“I thought the training was really good. There were lots of opportunities within that training to practice using Splats, setting up Splats, renaming Splats and breaking out into small groups. People were walking around to assist. They did an amazing job at getting us ready to [use] Splats in a short period of time,” said Audrey McGhee, one of the teacher participants in the Clayton Schools summer school program.


According to math administrators, who were surveyed across school districts throughout the country, “engagement is what allows [students’] minds to open up so they can be thinking and reasoning. If they’re not engaged, you’re not going to have them persevere and do the hard thinking.”

As a result of the Unruly Math summer school program, the Clayton County School District saw significant improvements in their math outcomes, including increased engagement, student attendance and overall retention of math topics — 84% of teachers agreed that Unruly Math improved their students’ retention of math concepts

“Students were coming to summer school,” Talia Franklin, one of the teachers who participated in the summer school program, said. “Now, that says something — because you don’t have to come to summer school. But, they were so excited about being able to learn … it’s fun, and they were seeing that they were learning concepts that they didn't get during the school year,” Franklin added. 

According to 96% of participating teachers, Unruly Math created a positive association with math for their students. 

Kids were able to use Splats to compete in teams. Kids were able to show fellow students how to perform certain tasks, which became a team effort. “I even saw teams crossing over, so that everyone would be winning!” Franklin said. “It was so much fun that I can’t even place it in a realm with anything else. I mean, what other program says ‘jump on something’ so you can learn?” she added. 

Teachers found the Splats to be an engagement tool that connects math foundations with the current concepts that students are learning in class —  80% said that Unruly Math improved their students’ overall math outcomes.

“It is a differentiated learning tool because you can … give kids different levels within the Splats. So, just because you’re teaching, let’s say, a three-digit by two-digit multiplication, and you have kids that don’t know two-digit by one-digit, they can focus on that on Splats versus … the two-digit by three-digit,” said Vanese Shaw, teacher at the Clayton County School District. 

According to Shaw, after their interaction with the Splats, the kids “are actually enjoying doing math.” Prior to Splats, math wasn’t her students’ favorite subject, she said. With Splats, they are motivated to learn math. 

Last but not least, 100% of participating teachers agreed, if given the opportunity, they would incorporate Unruly Math into their annual curriculum.


Unexpected Benefits for ELL Students  

Throughout the course of the summer school math program, additional benefits of Unruly Math application were identified for ELL students. The audio feedback was shown to be universal, thus increasing understanding and engagement among ELL students. 

Audrey McGhee, teacher within the Clayton County School District, said students were immediately drawn to the universal lights and audio feedback, particularly ELL students who do not have a fluent understanding of the English language. 

“Even with a language barrier, you can play Unruly and understand. You can see the visual, you can hear it … it opens it up to everyone to be able to understand what you need to do. ‘This is correct, this is not correct.’ Once they caught on to the pattern, they [figured out which way] they need to go. So, it’s almost like it’s providing a self-correction instead of someone standing there trying to always correct,” McGhee said. 
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