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Demystifying Adaptive Learning Technology for Math Instruction


What is Adaptive Learning?

Adaptive learning methodologies are available in a variety of online educational tools and platforms. They consist of interactive lessons and game-like environments, where a user’s progress is tracked, and follow-up questions are chosen based on their previous response. In this manner, it can help build knowledge in a holistic way, in that it caters to an individual’s needs—skill wise—and does not ask too challenging of questions before a certain concept is mastered. It helps free up time for teachers to provide more individual attention to learners who require more assistance, which is an ongoing issue in classroom management.

This technology has been growing in popularity in school districts across the nation for the past ten years, and is building a research base of success stories and examples to validate its approach. There are a variety of different platforms available, with a wide range of prices, accessibility features, and subject-matter focus areas. Some of the most well-known examples include:


This game-like instructional learning platform for K-8 math learning helps support informed decision-making.


This interactive learning platform features a variety of focus areas including Reading, Language Arts, Math, and Special Education.

How Is Adaptive Learning Used in Blended Instruction?

Most adaptive learning programs require a school- or district-wide account to facilitate the proper implementation of the program. If you are in a school that is using this kind of technology, some tried and tested reports on best practices have emerged in recent years. It has been noted, that when utilizing these programs, it is not wise to get too entrenched in the idea that the data collected is the key takeaway. Rather, that quality teaching, combined with the use of these programs, is a collaborative effort. Instead of sending your students to a computer lab without you, join them and facilitate their program, and find the right balance of online and off-line instruction, to ensure the students are getting the full experience that you, the teacher, wish for.

Adaptive Learning for Math Instruction

Blended learning is an approach that uses online digital media with traditional classroom teaching methods, and requires teacher facilitation. Math is a subject area that can be enhanced through the use of digital media, because it often helps learners visualize concepts, especially when animations are used that feature content in a sequential manner. When steps of a math concept, or problem are presented one piece at a time, through an interactive, adaptive learning program, the learner is guided toward comprehension. The student's brain, and its tendency to learn through building knowledge a step at a time, informs the design of these kinds of adaptive, mathematics programs.

Featured Example with a Demo

ST Math, or Spatial-Temporal Math, is game-based instructional program for K-12, designed to boost math fluency and comprehension through visual learning. It incorporates the latest research in learning and the brain and promotes mastery-based learning and mathematical understanding.

"Spatial Temporal" refers to the brain’s tendency to hold visual, mental representations in short-term memory, and to evolve them in space and time, thinking multiple steps ahead. The creators of the platform, MIND Research Institute, began the research into the design of what would become ST Math in the late 1990's, and today, the program is used by over a million students, in 45 states across the US.

The games all feature a penguin named Jiji, who the users help move past obstacles by solving math problems.

At, you can play a video that features both a demo of the capabilities of ST Math, specifically as it pertains to learning fractions, as well as an interactive lesson to get a hands-on feel for the platform. It’s fun, and I suggest you give it a try to see what Adaptive Learning technologies are all about.

If you are a math teacher, who is introducing the concept of fractions to your students, you could present this demo to your class, and if possible, let some students play it. There is a teacher guide for using the demo as well, and you can determine if the program may be of use to your students.


Written by Melissa Pelletier, Education Technology Contributor