A new online Math program: Blutick

This blog is a translation (hopefully not all too bad) of an original Dutch blog: https://jvremoortere.wordpress.com/2019/04/30/een-nieuw-wiskunde-programma-blutick/

Last january I had the privilige to attend a studytrip to London. Besides visiting several schools (Paddington Academy, Wren Academy) and attending a maths conference (Mixed Attainments Maths) , I also visted the BETT.

When preparing for my visit to BETT, I read an article in the BETT magazine about a new startup: Blutick. At the BETT I met and spoke with Rob Percival . We agreed that I would start using Blutick and share our findings with them.

And I have not regretted it for a single moment.

What is Blutick?

Blutick is an online math program. It offers unlimited practice material for a variety of math subjects. Sofar, that’s nothing new. Algebrakit, Numworx, DWO, Wiskunjetrainen etc do that as well (all are Dutch online math programs) . Most of these programs offer, like Blutick, per subject several levels (increasing in difficulty)

What makes Blutick so special?

Each subjects has the same screen layout:

On the left side you can find and browse through the offered subjects. Beneath the name Blutick on the top left corner, you’ll find that Blutick is orgnasised in four domains: Numeral, Algebra, Geometry and Statistics. As Blutick is still work in progess (a beta product), not all is filled.

In the main screen you will always find three parts:

  1. A instruction video related to the subject and level (video’s are not too long and are to the point).
  2. Next to it, is the worked example. In the screenshot above you can see that I have clicked a few steps already. The students have to click through the worked example as well, it’s not shown in full right away (which I like).
  3. Below the video and worked example it is up to the student to start working the the subject and level.

Here starts another feature which distinguishes Blutick from other programs: smart and usefull feedback! The program recognizes common misconceptions and frequently made mistakes and gives spot on feedback so the student knows what to look at to improve. Two examples :

Mark the use of colours: red is a real mistake/error. The yellow/orange is not completely wrong but has area to improve, student is not finished yet. I noticed that the feedback is still improving. While the number of users is growing, the programmers analyse the given answers by students an adjust, complement, improve the feedback.

Levels

Each subject has three levels. Sometimes six, but then the subject is split into a part I and a part II. In the level’s you will find a clear structure and increasing difficulty. With fractions for example:

Level 1: Adding fractions with the same denominator
Level 2: Adding fractions with different denominators
Level 3: Substracting fractions with different denominators

At this moment all fractions are single fractions. After multiplying and dividing single fractions follows the part where Mixed numbers come in, in the following order:

Level 1: Multiplying mixed number fractions
Level 2: Dividing mixed number fractions
Level 3: Adding and substracting mixed number fractions

This structure feels logical to my students. I see a learning curve is steeper then compared to the structure offered by my normally used method.

Compared to the UK, the curriculum in the Netherlands has a different order in which subjects are offered to students. When doing algebra fractions we came to the following level 3:

My first years (12/13yr olds) haven gotten into expanding double brackets, let alone, factorise them. That makes this level three impossible to make. This is no problem, though. You can plan tasks for students, and not only tasks, but you can also plan on levels within a subject.

The main advantage of this, is that with the quiz at the end of the task, the program takes into account which levels you had planned. Normally a quiz (of six questions) has two questions per level. But when only two levels are planned, the quiz now has three questions per planned level. There is only one condition: the student has to start the task from it’s task list and not via browsing through the menu on the left.

Teacher information

At our school (Ashram College) we and the students work with the google suite for education. The integration is ok, as excpeted. In Blutick you make a class, which gets a code. You can invite students or ask them to use the code provided to add them to your class. Per class you add tasks with deadlines. The tasks can be all levels, or not, that’s up to you.

In the Markbook you get an overview per class of all students and all planned tasks. The score you see, is based on the end quiz per subject.

Clicking on the ‘eye’ icon above a column give you the option to hide the colomn, which gives you a better overview (by removing old tasks form view). Per subject/task you can zoom in on more detail of the shown score.

In the details you can see how long the student has worked on the quiz, how many hints he/she used an how many mistakes haven been made. I don’t know the math to calculate the score, but take care. A score of 90 or higher is not a 9 out of 10 score! I’m still nog sure how to use this score.

There is also ‘management’ info from the students perspective.I’m not sure (as I am typing this) if the student has such an overview as well.

In this overview you see the planned tasks and how the student has been working on that task. Using the View full working you can look into all that the student has answered, including the received feedback. My students would like to be able to look into their old work as well, which is currently not possible (I think).

The third perspective on the results if from the task point of view.

All in all there is a lot of info you van use as a teacher to aid en support individual students and for next class preparation.

Our experiences so far.

For the most Dutch students the use of the English language was not so much of a problem. For the math specific terms (which are totally different inour language) I made a translation table.

For example:

What I have seen happening in my classroom is that the students made it through the fraction subject in 2/3rds of the time I normally use with similar classes. The use of Blutick aided the weak, average and strong student in the same amount as far as I can tell.

The combination of video (not much used though, see a little further in this blog) , worked example and direct /usefull feedback aids student enormously. Of the 28 students in my class, about 9 of them have done more then planned, mostly by self study on Blutick. I just had a fes check moments with them. By going through the double brackets and factorising they were able to do the level 3 fractions, mentioned earlier.

I started each lesson with a 5 to 10 minutes central discussion, based on the info I got from Blutick overviews. We worked out some examples, where I focused more on the strategies, the thinking steps and notation rules. Each week they made also some tasks on paper. Which is really needed for two reasons: writing uses different parts of your brain as compared to typing. This strenghtens their memory. Second: there are no hints and no feedback. So a little more struggle. Which is good, based on essential desirable difficulties.

What do students think? Based on a brief survey.

Do you watch the video?

(1= never, 5 = always)

Do you use the worked example?

( 1= never, 5 = always )

How userfriendly is Blutick?

(1= not at all, 5 = couldn’t be better)

Do you think that using Blutick is more efficient / do you learn better with Blutick then with a traditional method (book) ?

(1= not at all, 5 = couldn’t be better)

Describe what you like about Blutick.

In short: they like the feedback, the worked example, working in your own pace, the quiz to check for understanding, I learn faster, like working online.

Can you give Rob (Blutick) tips or advice to improve Blutick?

In short: a Dutch version would be appreciated, the feedback can be better (more related to made mistake), a notepad could be helpful, looking back into own work.

What’s next?

Next week, we’ll have a meeting with the math teachers (two otther math teachers have been using Blutick as well) to decide if we are going tp use Blutick next schoolyear and if so for what subjects. It doesn’t covers the whole curriculum, so an additional method is needed. Also, Blutick is great for strengthening skills. For developping a math mind (think like a mathematician) other resources are needed (like Don Steward of Resourceaholic)/

Working together with the Blutcik development team (Rob) is great. They respond quick and take your feedback serious. Several suggestions habe made it to the product as well. So keep up the good work guys (and girls?). You’ve won my appreciation.

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