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Case Study: T.O.U.C.H. Tulsa
Sep 18

Case Study: T.O.U.C.H. Tulsa

By Elephant Learning | Case Study

A nonprofit in Tulsa that works with low-income and refugee children experienced amazing results using the Elephant Learning app. On average, all the students in the program learned an average of 1.25 years of math by using the app for 23 minutes per week during the beta testing period. 

We talked to Laura, one of the nonprofit administrators, to learn more about her experience with Elephant Learning and her students’ response to the app. 

Taking Math Out of the Classroom

T.O.U.C.H. Tulsa was originally formed to help a low-income, oft-forgotten community in Tulsa through after-school programming funded by the 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant. The after-school program, called The Zone Academy and now in its 12th year, is an enrichment program. That means T.O.U.C.H. Tulsa partners with schools to provide children with auxiliary learning experiences that complement what they’re already learning in the classroom. The Zone is STEAM-based, so it provides learning experiences focused on science, technology, engineering, art and math. During an average afternoon in the program, a child enjoys some recreation time and snacks, alongside homework time and tutoring. 

Before working with the Elephant Learning app, children at The Zone would have math sessions, though those sessions weren’t referred to as a traditional “math class.” According to Laura, she and her team didn’t want to mirror children’s experiences in school, where they just sat down and did some math problems.

Related: The Real Reason Math Curriculum is Failing Your Child

Instead, The Zone incorporates math, science, engineering and other STEAM concepts into hands-on activities. 

The Needs: Effective, User-Friendly, Customizable

Last year, Laura says, her supervisor and the program director came across Elephant Learning while searching through different math apps that could be used as part of Zone curriculum. She and her colleagues wanted a math app that was:

  • Effective: The students would increase their math skills.
  • User-friendly: An app that the students could use on their own, via an iPad or computer. With a large number of students, the app needed to be easy to use.
  • Customizable: The app needed to be easy to use, but robust enough that the exercises could be individualized to each student. 

Out of all the math learning apps and resources they came across, Elephant Learning was the most user-friendly and convenient, allowing the kids to just tap and go. 

Elephant Learning Makes the Grade

Currently, students are using the Elephant Learning app on their individual iPads. App usage is incorporated into the program’s homework time, so, after a student finishes their homework during that allotted time period, they can go play on the Elephant Learning app. It’s simple and easy for them to use; all they have to do is look for their name and start playing. 

Last year, 60 students were using the program, first through third grade. This semester, 100 students are using the program, from pre-K to sixth grade. 

Engagement Equals Enhanced Comprehension 

According to Laura, last year all the kids who used the Elephant Learning app “really loved it.” In fact, she said, they couldn’t get some kids to stop! They would have played the app 20, 30 or 40 minutes if allowed. All in all, the kids were engaged and they were having fun. 

As for Laura and her team, they were very impressed with the variety of activities the app offered to children, so there was always a game that matched each individual child’s interests and abilities. They also appreciated that they could go into the app and see how much time children were spending on activities, how much they accomplished each day and where they were at any given moment with their math comprehension. 

Many of the Zone students advanced significantly using the Elephant Learning app and ended up two or three years ahead of their starting math comprehension level. 

Related: Valuable Skills Your Child Learns in Math That They Can’t Learn Anywhere Else

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The Final Word

If any parent or teacher were interested in using Elephant Learning with their child, Laura says she would tell them to definitely check it out. “It’s a great way for them to practice their skills and learn new ones, and it’s pretty easy to use.” 

How to Evaluate Your Child’s Math Skills Based on Language
Aug 27

How to Evaluate Your Child’s Math Skills Based on Language

By Elephant Learning | Teaching Math

In order to increase your child’s math skills, you have to identify the starting point of your child’s comprehension. There are strategic ways to do this to ensure you’re not confusing your child even more. 

Rather than evaluate your child’s math skills by giving them a problem like “What is 5+4?” or “What is 7×9?”, where they could have memorized the answer, try to evaluate your child’s math skills based on language. If your student does not understand what is happening with the symbols behind what is on a piece of paper, they are not going to be able to apply the math to solve real life problems. Because success and ease at teaching comes from comprehension rather than proficiency, this will also ensure that your student is able to understand what you are saying when you are introducing new ideas.

Ask your child some word questions to determine if they understand what you mean when talking about math. Here are some examples of how you can test understanding math concepts.


To test counting, there are several things you can do. If you want to see if your student has comprehension, you may try a producing exercise with them. 

Ask them to give you eight things. If the student is able to pass over eight items, stopping at eight without help, then they are proficient at counting. If they continue, it is okay; let them continue to see how high they may get, but you may then see if they are proficient at “How many?” This is what many parents play with their children already. You hold out eight fingers and you ask the child “How many fingers am I holding up?” If they are able to count and get the answer, that is good. If they say something like “Five and three,” then you will need to continue easing the problems until you can find which numbers they understand and which they do not.

If they are showing that they can produce, you may move ahead a step further. Ask them if you had one more, how many would you have. Remember, it is okay if they count to get the answer or use their fingers; they will develop proficiency at mental math in time. Until then, let them use the strategies they understand to solve the problems. The slowness of the solution should cause them to come up with better strategies.

Subtraction and Addition

When it comes to subtraction and addition, some questions you could ask would be something like, “If I had eight peaches, and someone came and took four away, how many would I have left?” You can do this with or without fingers.

Because addition and subtraction are two sides of the same idea, you can alternate between addition and subtraction such as asking, “If I had 14 ships and someone brought me two more, how many would have?” 

Remember — it’s okay for your child to count to get the answer or to use their fingers. It means that they understand how to solve the problem and because of that they understand the language. That’s good. 

If they are not proficient, that is okay, too. Go to easier subjects and find out what they understand and do not. Catching them up will be fast and easy if you know you are starting in the right place.


When it comes to evaluating multiplication, and knowing whether or not your child understands the language and concept versus having just memorized their multiplication tables, we use groupings by rows or collections. 

You may arrange six rows of seven items and ask “How many are there?” If your child is counting to get the answer and they’ve memorized their times tables, then this may be an indication of a problem. You may quickly be able to catch them up if you say something like “What is 6 times 7?” after they count to answer. 

A lot of times, when students who have memorized their multiplication tables make this real-life connection of what multiplication actually means, they’re able to get the concept. They glide through multiplication moving forward. 

Fractions, Decimals and Percentages

These three math topics are all representations of proportionality. Students that are having issues understanding the idea of proportionality will have issues with all three.  

They are best evaluated visually. The easiest way to understand proportionality is through fractions and the best way to do this in real life is through measurements — anything that breaks out a measuring cup, ruler, or measuring tape. By working with your student on a project like this, you will quickly see what they understand and do not. Where they do not understand, take note and back off; where they do understand, you may give them more challenging questions.

When it comes to fractions, it’s important for children to understand that fractions, decimals and percentages are all representations of the same idea: proportionality. It’s just a quirk of human language that we’ve agreed upon these three different ways to represent the same idea. No one way is more correct than another. Telling a student this is important. It is often overlooked in the classroom and ends up contributing to anxiety around these topics.

What to Do When Your Child Doesn’t Understand

What can you do if you’re working with a student, but you’re seeing that they don’t understand something? It’s pretty simple, actually.

Let them answer the question incorrectly. Ask them why they think it is the correct answer. Based on their reasoning, you should be able to see exactly what the child does not understand and then give them a hint that allows them to have that “aha” moment or clarify the idea that is misunderstood.  

Related: Answers to Your Top Questions About Math Anxiety 

This is the process we encourage our parents to use when working with their child in the Elephant Learning app. Every parent we have spoken to that has used the above advice has been able to coach their child into understanding. For example, one parent discovered that her daughter thought “older” meant “taller” and that was causing the issue!

Is your child prepared for a future in STEM?

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It’s very important not to get frustrated if your child does not understand a concept. This is where Elephant Learning really excels. We help you find your student’s level without the exhaustion. The computer has infinite patience.

Please don’t keep pounding away at the same concepts in the same manner if your child isn’t getting it. Sometimes it is best to take a break. Go online and see how other people are teaching these concepts; you can even look at how the Elephant Learning app is teaching a concept and replicate our methods. 

Building a Solid Math Foundation 

Evaluating your child’s math skills is so much more than just giving them a math sheet filled with problems, or looking at how well they’re doing in class. It’s all about ensuring they have a strong math foundation that holds up over time as they move into harder and harder concepts. Evaluating their comprehension based on the language surrounding math makes building this foundation that much easier. 

5 Common Math App Pitfalls — and How Elephant Learning Is Different
Aug 19

5 Common Math App Pitfalls — and How Elephant Learning Is Different

By Elephant Learning | Curriculum , Math Apps

As a parent with a child struggling in math or striving to get ahead, you have an overwhelming choice to make. Between thousands of online resources and hundreds of math apps, you may wonder what makes one resource different from another aside from the price point and the graphics.

If you’ve already tried a number of apps, you’ve probably noticed that a typical math app’s strategy is to throw math components into an online game, but this never gets to the root of the problem: If a child has math anxiety or is averse to doing mathematics, the game is not fooling them. If anything, it may be turning mathematics into work.

When we see statistics like 75% of high school students are not proficient in high school mathematics (and that is up from 66% in 2007!), it’s clear that while the number of applications on the market for mathematics has exploded, none of them are moving the needle. 

At Elephant Learning, we believe it is possible to make educational software that emphasizes education first and is also fun. It is an important difference. Our only goal is to ensure that children are empowered by mathematics

From our founding mission to the curriculum behind the games, here are five ways Elephant Learning is different from many popular math apps. 

1. We Are a Gamification of a Proven Curriculum

Elephant Learning started with the most effective mathematics activities as documented by early-age education researchers — scientists that have dedicated their lives to finding the most effective way to teach. We used these activities to create puzzle games for children.

Because we are starting with an activity that we know works, rather than figuring out how to mishmash math into a game that will be “entertaining,” we know that the outcome is going to be effective. This places the emphasis on learning. The rest of the tool is built around this.

2. Our Choices Are Research Oriented

Science says that if a child does activity A in order to do activity B, then activity A becomes work. 

In the case of having children do math in order to play games, this means that mathematics is becoming “work” to the child. That does not feel like empowerment. With every decision we make, we are painstakingly ensuring that the message we are sending to the student is the most empowering.  

That is also why we are creating coaching videos to help you use our tool every step of the way. The way we overcome math anxiety is by ensuring that children understand the concepts, and that we develop a healthy relationship with mathematics going forward. 

In fact, the research says doing mathematics at your level of understanding is fun, like a puzzle game, and it develops the problem-solving skills that children need everywhere in life.

3. We Treat It Like a Med

If you’ve ever read the “Four Hour Body” by Tim Ferriss, he talks about a med (medicine). With medicine, you want to take the required dosage; anything greater than the required dosage creates declining results. Ferriss’ example was tanning. If you tan for 15 minutes, it’s the optimal amount of time in the sun. Any more than 15 minutes and you run the risk of burning; any less and the results are not as optimal.

Every choice we make treats our system like a med. That is why we have daily playtime timers to limit usage so that students do not burn out. But more than that, that is also why we do go overboard on motivational techniques. 

People have studied the most addictive apps on the market and have books with formulas designed to make apps consume your time. That is not Elephant Learning’s goal — empowerment does not come through addiction. Our goal is to get children to use it 10 minutes per day, three days per week. If a student wants to do more, let them, but it is important to keep it within reason so that the student does not burn out on it. The child takes the “med”, they get the result and they apply it in their lives. 

Related Article: The Real Reason Math Curriculum is Failing Your Child

4. Progress Based on Reality 

For most students (everyone older than five), the Elephant Learning app experience starts with a placement exam or training phase. They train with the app’s algorithms, which determines their initial math comprehension. 

This is vital because you won’t be starting your child out at where they should be according to their grade or age. Instead, we’re starting with the curriculum that your child is actually ready to tackle, based on their comprehension. 

This ensures children feel empowered (because they’re not automatically greeted with math problems they’re bound to fail, as soon as they start using the app), they have fun doing math problems they’re capable of doing and the math doesn’t become annoying “work.” 

Meanwhile, other apps assume your child may know, for example, multiplication tables because they’re in third grade. Elephant Learning actually takes the time to find out where your child really is in their math comprehension and where their math gap actually started. The resulting experience for the child is a huge, empowering difference.

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5. Power to the Parents

Many math apps are parent-free zones or, at best, parents are an afterthought within the app. 

Elephant Learning knows that the best results come when the parent is involved in the child’s education. Every study shows outcomes for students are better when parents are involved. The truth is, when I started this company, my first child was on his way. I created this system as a tool to ensure that he receives the benefits of mathematics education and avoids the American educational pitfall. 

We live in a time when, increasingly, if you are not the person creating the automation, you are the person being replaced by it. Our reports detail exactly how we intend to teach each topic down to the milestone level with advice on how you can further learning with fun games outside of the system. This turns your child’s playtime in the system into a tool to succeed in playtime with you. We provide advice on how to work with the students on mistakes so that the pressure is always off. At any point in time, if your student is struggling, we are always happy to look at the data and advise. That is why Elephant Learning can guarantee results.

The math app you choose for your child’s learning matters. Apps that focus on games and graphics with math sprinkled throughout may end up turning those math problems into perceived work for your child (and can become addictive). Elephant Learning begins with a proven curriculum and scientific understanding of how children learn math. We then build games and puzzles around the curriculum, empowering students to truly grasp math concepts. Knowing that parental involvement is key to student success, we also ensure that you, the parent, are involved every step of the way. 

Case Study: A 5th Grader’s Journey with Elephant Learning
Aug 14

Case Study: A 5th Grader’s Journey with Elephant Learning

By Elephant Learning | Case Study

Fifth grade is a crucial time for children, especially in math class. Division, decimals, fractions, exponents and basic geometry — it can all be stressful for not only students, but parents, too. This is a fact that one of our Elephant Learning parents knew very well. 

Tears at Math Time

Nicole H. has a 10-year-old fifth-grader, Kaelyb, who, before using the Elephant Learning app, was not only failing math, but he was also becoming disruptive during his math classes. 

Things weren’t much better at home. According to Nicole, all of their after-school homework sessions were filled with frustrated looks, whining and excuses. For Kaelyb, his big excuse was always the same: He couldn’t remember how to do the problem-solving he’d been taught at school. 

Making Math Time Fun Again

Nicole came across an ad for the Elephant Learning app while scrolling through social media. Though she couldn’t find many reviews, she decided to give the app a try. 

Kaelyb had already been involved with tutors at his school, and Nicole had invested in a large dry erase board at home to make homework time more convenient.

Almost immediately, Nicole began seeing positive changes with Kaelyb, particularly when it came to how excited he was when it came to math time. Kaelyb was excited to see how the Elephant Learning app worked and they were both thrilled that he could easily log in and play all by himself; in fact, she says, there are so many games to choose from that he had a difficult time choosing the first games to play!

Help your child gain confidence and conquer math anxiety

Kids learn 1 year of math in 3 months with the Elephant Learning math curriculum

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Getting Ahead with Increased Confidence 

Now, Kaelyb is using the Elephant Learning app five days a week for as much as an hour per day, logging in first thing in the morning. He loves all the games and challenges himself to dedicate as much time as possible to the app, playing on it every day instead of just the recommended three times per week.

Nicole loves the app because, while Kaelyb is having a fun time playing games and learning math concepts, she’s receiving charts that give her a good indication of his struggle areas so she can then personally work with him on those concepts. 

The family has been using the app for about a month now. At Kaelyb’s first assessment, the app indicated what Nicole already knew — that he performed below grade level when it came to math. But, within the month they’ve been using the app regularly, Kaelyb advanced so much that he’s now understanding math concepts beyond his grade level. 

Nicole is excited for Kaelyb to return to school equipped with the new skills he’s learned and his increased confidence when it comes to solving math problems. 

Why Your Child Is Behind in Math (Yes, Even Your Child)
Aug 08

Why Your Child Is Behind in Math (Yes, Even Your Child)

By Elephant Learning | Curriculum

The majority of kids are behind in math. Even when they’re keeping pace with their peers, they likely aren’t excelling. Why is this, how can it be prevented and what can we do to reverse the damage if it’s already in place?

Math Deficiencies Start in Kindergarten

Statistics say that four out of five students enter kindergarten unprepared for the kindergarten curriculum. Kindergarten math curriculum starts at counting to 20, so students entering kindergarten need to know how to count to 10. Does that mean 80% of students don’t know how to count to 10?

Yes. And it’s all because what the school means by counting to 10 and what parents mean by counting to 10 is different. 

For parents, if their child can verbally recite the numbers one through 10, then the child knows how to count to 10. 

For the school, counting to 10 means that the child can pick 10 items out of a pile and give them to you when you ask for 10 — no more, no less. They have a number in their head while counting and they know when to stop and what exactly 10 means in a real-life situation. 

If a child enters kindergarten knowing how to count to 10 by the school’s definition, they tend to do fairly well within our education system. Unfortunately, only the top 20% of income earners are preparing their children for kindergarten in this way, mainly because they can afford to send their child to preschool, where children learn how to count to 10 by this definition. 

Preschool and Kindergarten Set the Tone for the Rest of Your Child’s Life

This early math readiness is significant because the research also shows that, at the preschool level, children that do more math are better readers, writers and problem solvers. They have better grammar and better reading comprehension.

Another study showed that preschool math scores are a better predictor of third-grade reading scores than preschool reading scores, meaning the more math children do, the better they are at reading down the road. 

One other study showed that preschool math scores predict fifth-grade overall scores, not just fifth-grade math scores. 

There are several reasons for this. 

Math is Mental Gymnastics

Math tends to be like mental gymnastics: It exercises your mind. Children who are doing more math are practicing mental skills more often; just like you might practice a simple skill like chewing gum and walking at the same time, children can practice counting while holding a number in their head. 

Math Anxiety Seeps into Your Child’s Entire Education

Once there’s a gap in your child’s math understanding, math anxiety builds due to that gap. If your child doesn’t understand the teacher during a math lesson, they just assume they’re not good at the subject. 

Our society tells them it’s okay if they are just “not a numbers person.” Once it is okay to not be good at one subject, it makes it easy to have excuses to be deficient in other subjects, too.

Related: Answers to Your Top Questions About Math Anxiety

Your Child’s Experience After Kindergarten

Because math concepts build on top of each other, if your child doesn’t understand math during their first year, they’re not going to understand things later on.

Maybe they didn’t really understand counting, but now they’re on to addition and subtraction using memorization as a technique to pass. Once they get to multiplication, the children that were great at memorization look like they are doing well, but it is like if you entered a third-year biochem class after missing the first two years; everyone sounds like they’re speaking English, but you would not know what they’re talking about. 

Why is it that parents aren’t seeing this? Because children who rely on memorization don’t appear to have any issue with math. 

If a parent asks their child what 4×5 is and the child quickly answers with 20, the parent can check that off their mental list. There doesn’t appear to be any need to dig any deeper.

But, if you put up four groups of five objects and the child has to count all the objects to know there are 20 items there, rather than recognizing that four groups of five equal 20, then you see that there is a problem. 

Take yourself back to that spot. You’re that third-grade student who’s not understanding anything that’s going on. What are you going to do? You’re going to use the strategy that you know will get you to the next level and everyone will help you with that strategy, because everyone — parents, teachers — are motivated to help you pass your test. 

What happens to students when they get to middle school, where individualized resources are more scarce and memorization maybe doesn’t work as well as it did when students are learning multiplication tables?

When students get to the middle school level, this is where all the statistics discussed above catch up with them. Once they get into algebra, if they don’t understand the concept, it’s game over. There’s no way to memorize algebra. The best they can do is memorize mnemonics, but as soon as the equations become more complex, which happens fairly quickly, these strategies no longer work.

Related: The Real Reason Math Curriculum is Failing Your Child

What Happens After High School?

The large majority of children who can’t afford to go to preschool ends up creating a pipeline of kids that aren’t well-versed in basic math concepts and, later down the road, in more advanced math concepts. 

Seventy-five percent of high school students are not proficient in high school math. That’s the end result of the entire chain. And this is happening in a society that’s more computer-driven than ever. These children need to understand math in order to get into fields with higher-paying jobs. 

We tell children they can grow up to be anything they want, but to be honest, it’s over at kindergarten. Anything we can do to change that could empower people at an unimaginable scale. 

What do you need to know in order to just be good at, say, computer programming? It’s algebra, logic and problem-solving. 

When we say that 75% of students have a deficiency in high school, think about the impact it would have if you opened up that 75% of the population to the jobs they were promised, the jobs they want. What if we were able to graduate more engineers and scientists, and the business people and politicians of tomorrow could actually understand what they were saying?

What sort of impact would that have on our society or this planet?

Parental Guidance Required

Parents have to take this into their own hands. When parents become involved with their child’s education, the outcomes for the student is always better. Fortunately, there are a lot of tools out there to help you take control of your child’s mathematics education. 

Learn 1 year of math in
3 months

30 minutes a week x 3 months = 1 year of math concepts

Elephant Learning’s match academy is a proven math curriculum for kids ages 2 – 16

>>>Get Started<<<

Elephant Learning accurately tests and evaluates kids at different grade levels to see if they truly get what they should be learning. It then adjusts what they’re learning to ensure they understand math conceptually right from the start. 

The app provides educational games for the kids while also providing parents with reports and information on how the app is actually teaching a concept. Parents will find games to play with their child outside of the app that further support learning. 

We break it down for you, telling you how to help your child along every step of the way and showing you how to identify your child’s misunderstandings simply. 

For instance, rather than correcting them or showing them how to do the math problem correctly, ask them why they think they’re correct; you’re going to see what they misunderstand nearly immediately and be able to give them a hint on how to overcome it.

This way, Elephant Learning is empowering to the student, but it’s also empowering to the parent. You no longer have to be afraid to take your child’s math education into your own hands.

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