Schools often delay access to grade-level work until all missing learning is remediated, but emerging lessons from technology-assisted learning platforms suggest that remediation may widen academic gaps.
Zearn Math, created by the nonprofit Zearn, is a top-rated math platform used by one in four elementary school students and more than one million middle school students nationwide.
To identify strategies that most effectively catch up students each time they struggle in math, Zearn conducted a quasi-experimental study that examined the differences in student performance when directed to a learning “acceleration” versus remediational approach to math learning. Using internal data, Zearn examined how 600,000 individual elementary and middle school students across all 50 states responded to five million instances of learning acceleration and remediation in SY 2020-21 and 2021-22.
Zearn researchers found that when students were directed to an accelerated learning approach, they successfully completed twice the amount of grade-level lessons and struggled less in their overall math learning, compared to instances in which students were directed to a remediational approach.
As educators nationwide work collectively to help students address COVID learning loss, this research provides emerging evidence that learning acceleration may be a more effective approach than remediation—not just in educational technology platforms but perhaps in other applications, as well.
Zearn’s commitment to ongoing assessment of its Zearn Math platform, and its mission of increasing student achievement, has contributed to the organization’s growth momentum. Students have completed over 12 billion math problems on the platform to date and a recent statewide assessment of students with access to Zearn Math in Nebraska reported that students who were frequent, consistent users of Zearn had math scores 2.5 times higher than those of demographically-similar students who rarely or never used Zearn.
Overdeck Family Foundation has funded Zearn’s work since 2018. Our support for the organization has allowed it to strengthen the quality, implementation, and innovation of its digital K-8 curriculum, while increasing its ability to measure its impact at scale. Our capacity-building support has also assisted Zearn in conducting a market landscape assessment to inform its expansion goals as well as supported its engagement with Harvard’s Strategic Data Project, which will improve the organization’s capacity for data and analytics management.