Madison Hansen, Evergreen Elementary 4th Grader, leads the class in a Daily Work Review lesson in “XtraMath.” Photo by Hugh McMillan

Prime movers Peninsula School District Math Coach Amy Barber and Kathryn Portteus, 4th Grade Teacher at Evergreen Elementary, opened this door a few weeks ago.

A whole class of kids appeared to be in their recess period. They were a blur of rhythmically dancing and singing youngsters. They were happy. They were having fun. They were learning. AND the lyrics to their songs belted out in unison were, “six times eight is 48,” and, “nine times seven is 63,” and … you get the idea.

Teacher Portteus said, “Mr. Jeschke deserves public recognition for creating this incredible program and letting us use it for free. I have noticed a marked improvement in my students’ ability to recall timed math facts since they have been using XtraMath.”

And that’s what it’s all about: XtraMath, an online fact program that is given to the students of the Peninsula School District at no charge.

Amy Barber explained that David Jeschke, a Seattle resident, father and computer programmer by trade, volunteered in a 3rd and 4th grade class in White Center last year. He quickly noticed that many students lacked fluency with math facts and this interfered with their ability to complete more complex tasks. In response, he created a computer program to help students practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The program is XtraMath.

“As luck would have it,” said Barber, “(Jeschke) graciously offered this to students in the Peninsula School District. The program can be done at school and accessed at home. It even has the capability to create flash cards individualized to each student’s needs.

“Although this program could be marketed for a large amount of money,” said Barber, “David is humbly letting us access this free of charge.”

Portteus added, “This is an extraordinary story about a man who is helping children outside of his own community for absolutely no public recognition or compensation. I think his dedication to all children learning math is incredible.”

After the singing-dancing-learning session, some of the kids repaired to walls lined with computers where Jeschke unobtrusively lent them support and encouragement.

Students, many of whom preferred to use only their first names, shared their thoughts.

Mitchell N. said he loves XtraMath, “because it is helping him learn math facts in a fun new way.”

“XtraMath is a privilege, like a game is,” declared Anthony Robertson, and Jonathan C. said it helps him learn how to do division and multiplication and it’s fun. Madison Hansen loves, “Mr. Jeschke’s web-based program because it is fun and easy to navigate,” and Drew R. says XtraMath is helping him finally learn his 9s, 8s and 12s.

XtraMath is helping Megan J. learn the multiplication facts she did not yet know, and Maddie S. said XtraMath is really cool and her parents said it is really good for kids. Nathan T. loves it because of “Beat the Bee” (in which kids race to complete a problem before the “bee” does). Shelby L. loves, “trying to Beat the Bee by coming up with the answer before the Bee does.”

Holly Lake finds, “XtraMath helps me practice my facts, is fun and you get flashcards too.”

Encouragingly, Aryn D. said, “it gets harder and harder each time; it’s great!” It is helping Mikayla H. with multiplication problems she has, “been having problems with.”

“If I get a problem wrong,” said Tiffany McNulty, “the next day it will give me the same problem again so that I can learn it.”

Portteus finds XtraMath, “an additional math tool that students can use in my classroom while I am teaching a large group math lesson. The program works efficiently calling students one at a time to the computer without any class interruption. Mr. Jeschke truly thought of everything a teacher would be concerned about for classroom management and individualized instruction. Students love the program and after two weeks, I could see their math confidence building every day.

“Parents love the program because students can access it from home,” said Portteus and, “as a teacher, I can track individual student progress through the program that helps me tailor my math instruction to the needs of each learner.”

Amy Barber noted, “David was treated with awe and gratitude. Kathryn (Portteus) exclaimed, ‘I cannot thank you enough for this program; It runs itself and is so easy to implement in the classroom. Students can practice math facts while I carry on with the math lesson without interruption. It is individually tailored to each student.’”

“David has been so generous with his time answering teacher questions about the program and is truly committed to each child’s success,” said Portteus. “This is evidenced by the fact that he came all the way from Seattle to Lakebay to help me with a classroom computer glitch. In my opinion, David exemplifies what it means to be a citizen in a global community.”

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