Adaptive Technology – Are we on to something?

Online learning, blended learning, adaptive learning, individualized learning – these are all types of learning formats we have grown accustomed to due to the explosion of technology. We use to have to go to the classroom and have a teacher lecture to us, take notes, ask questions, and call it a day. Now, we are being exposed to many different types of learning formats. I am sure most of you have at one time or another either taken a class in a format different from the traditional face-to-face format or taught a class in one of the formats. One learning format that has caught my attention and that of many math instructors is adaptive learning.

What is Adaptive Learning? Adaptive learning is a form of personalized learning where technology is used to tailor the learning process to the needs of a student. According to Claire Stuve (2015), adaptive learning systems “adapt instruction for each student and create an individualized learning path, opening new content areas only after the student masters the current content area”. Many questions are asked when the topic of adaptive learning is raised: “Is adaptive learning the answer to individualized learning? How much teacher involvement is needed to help a student succeed? Is adaptive learning best fitted for a particular learning style?” I believe the most important question we all want to ask is, “Will it help our students succeed, and if so why?”

According to Peter K. Bol, the vice provost for advances in learning and Charles H. Carswell, who is the professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University, adaptive learning lengthens student retention and speeds up how students acquire information. Isn’t that golden? We want our students to retain the material they learn right? Personally, when it comes to any educational technology, I believe that the why and how is important. We have to know why we are using it, how to use it, and how it is affecting our students.

Have you used adaptive technology either as a teacher or as a student? What was your experience?




“Always take one more step – you will be surprised at what you are capable of achieving”




Milano, B. (2017, February 2). Adaptive learning featured in HarvardX course. Retrieved from

Stuve, C. (2015). A Study of Student Perceptions on Adaptive Learning Systems in College Algebra and Their Effect on Learning Outcomes. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest. (10029031).



It Just Doesn’t Make Sense!

Ah! not again! Everywhere you turn, you hit a brick wall. That particular math concept stares you in the face, but it just doesn’t make sense. Too many rules, too many ways to turn, and you are just not getting it! It’s just one of those days when nothing makes sense.

Sometimes we breeze through a chapter, and other times some topics can make us want to pull our hair out. I have had students get upset, and just want to quit. But don’t quit just yet! Try these few steps:

    • research various resources (there are great math resources online – e.g. Khan Academy if you are looking for videos, Paul’s Online Math Notes if you need cheat sheets, Purple Math, if you want detailed step by step explanation of concepts with examples….and many more). We all have different learning styles. Some of my students prefer videos, some prefer cheat sheets, and others prefer someone explaining a concept to them one-on-one. Identify your preference, and dig for resources that suit you.
    • get into the habit of taking notes. Try not to glance through a problem. Put pen on paper, and try your hand at it.
    • take a break, the numbers are not going anywhere. Anytime I feel overwhelmed by too many numbers, I walk away from my desk and come back refreshed.

Does it make sense now?

Yes  – Do the Happy Dance and keep practicing!

No – Ask for help! Sometimes students think that if they ask for help it means they are not trying hard enough. WRONG! It just means you need help to understand the material better, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I always tell my students, “No question is ever too small to ask!” Don’t apologize just because you have to ask your instructor or tutor a question over and over again. They are there to help you succeed. I will rather my students ask me as many questions as possible than struggle and fail a test or a class. Your teacher or tutor is a great resource – use them!


Always remember – take one more step, and you will be surprised at what you are capable of achieving.

A Love-Hate Relationship With Math? Can We Call It Mathphobia?

Have you ever caught yourself saying, “Some people are good at math, and some of us are just not born to do math?” I have heard it many times with some of my students, and I love to prove them wrong.

Caroline Richards, Assistant Professor of Mathematics at American Public University wrote an insightful piece about ” How to Break Through Your Mathphobia “.

In the article, Caroline describes two mindsets – the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.

The fixed mindset:

This mindset believes that they were born a certain way with a certain level of intelligence and there is nothing they or anyone can do about it.

The growth mindset:

This mindset on the other hand believes that if they challenge themselves and take it one step at a time, they can move away from the ‘fixed mindset’ and do the happy dance. This is the mindset we want to achieve on our math adventures.

Caroline discusses some great tips on how to reduce math anxiety and prepare yourself for success in a math class. My favorite part is when she mentions that, “Many students who are weak in math mistakenly think of it as a collection of thousands of unrelated formulas.” Math is not just a collection of unrelated formulas. Math is a process where one concept builds on another. Polynomials might call on Order of Operations, Graphing might call on Positive and Negative Numbers, and the list goes on and on. So, don’t drop that pen yet or put off that math class for years.

Start on your ‘math success’ journey today by adopting the growth mindset:

“Yes! I did it!”
“Oh! I get it now!”
“Now I understand why it is the way it is!”
“I never knew I could have fun with math!”
“Now, I think I like math!”
“I feel good about this now!”

Ask questions till you get answers, and practice till it makes sense.

One step at time you will develop your math skills.