Interactive program offers new way to teach math

Posted at 10:16 PM, Feb 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-05 00:23:31-05

Getting kids excited about math just got easier for parents and teachers in Idaho thanks to a new pilot program.

The Gem state was hand-picked for the launch of a 9-week math challenge called LearnStorm. Currently, LearnStorm is offered in just four places in the world.

The Khan Academy is a worldwide, online education non-profit with free videos and tutorials on all subjects up to the college level. The founder hopes to expand their offering of LearnStorm once students in Idaho, San Francisco, Chicago and Ireland test it out.

The assembly held Monday at Lone Star Middle School in Nampa to celebrate the launch of LearnStorm in Idaho classrooms seemed to be a hit.

The non-profit's founder, Sal Khan, even traveled to be here.

"I think it's going to be exciting for a lot of students," he said. "And, I think they're going to find that if they do this fun thing, they'll actually end up doing a lot better in school."

Kids take part in online challenges and earn points for their work much like a game. Those points then lead to rewards.

"They love the competition, they'll rise to the challenge," said Christy Schwehr, a fourth grade teacher at Amity Elementary in Boise.

Just days after the program's implementation at Amity Elementary, and the new program is already inspiring Schwehr's students to try solving math problems in a new way.

LearnStorm acts as a compliment to the kids' daily math curriculum. Schwehr says it differs from other online math programs in that it teaches more than one way to solve a problem and can be tailored to fit each student's specific needs. It also spells out to kids through the online program how what they're learning will apply in their adult lives.

"We're missing out on an opportunity to reach other kids when we don't show them other ways to multiply or divide or add... or other ways to look at things," Schwehr said. "And, if I can teach them to look at math differently, maybe they'll learn to look at the world differently."

The program's other main component involves planting a "growth mindset" through weekly exercises that teaches students they can learn from their mistakes.

Sophia Bourgeau, 9, wants to be an interior designer when she grows up. She already knows that area and perimeter calculations will be of significant use to her in the near future.

"Eventually, at the end [of the math problem online], it got the answer and you can see how they did it," Bourgeau explained. "Then, you could look back on it and see, 'Okay, they did this and that's what happened."

Since Monday's launch, 25,000 Gem state students have signed up to take on the LearnStorm challenge.

For more information on the free online program anyone in Idaho can sign up for, visit