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Mae Smythe Elementary teacher Ben Gibbons named Dreambox Grand Champion

Mae Smythe Elementary teacher Ben Gibbons named Dreambox Grand Champion
Posted on 04/08/2019
This is the image for the news article titled Mae Smythe Elementary teacher Ben Gibbons named Dreambox Grand Champion

story by Dwight Henson
photography by Jade Wise
PISD Communications


Pasadena ISD honored Mae Smythe Elementary third grade teacher Ben Gibbons as the Grand Champion award recipient during the March board meeting, after his class of 21 students logged over 5,000 math lessons in less than four weeks using the DreamBox Learning platform.

DreamBox Learning, an online mathematics software, uses animated adventures, games and challenges to educate students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

“What makes this software so effective is that it is custom tailored to each student using it,” said Assistant Principal Ariel Peña. “Students take an annual diagnostic test, and DreamBox builds a curriculum that is best suited to develop and expand their existing skills and aptitudes.”

“It really is an incredible tool for our students,” added Gibbons. “It focuses on building a conceptual understanding of math, as opposed to just focusing on rote memorization like I’ve seen in other online tools.”

Introduced to the district in 2015, the supplemental math software had recently experienced a slump in user activity. To bolster usage, Pasadena ISD and DreamBox representatives launched the district’s first ever DreamBox Challenge in February.

Students across 36 campuses, from kindergarten through fourth grade, all vied for the top spot as they raced to log the most lessons. According to DreamBox representatives, Gibbons’ class not only won the district challenge, but also logged the most lessons nationwide.

“It got neck and neck there for a while,” recalled Gibbons. “But my students were motivated, thanks in large part to parental involvement and a healthy dose of friendly competition—plus the promise of a pizza party paid for by DreamBox in the end certainly didn’t hurt!”

Beyond the promise of a pizza party, Gibbons encouraged students to replace their downtime with DreamBox time by offering them his own incentives along the way.

“Students who logged enough lessons by the end of the week took part in our Fun Fridays games and activities,” said Gibbons.

DreamBox also awarded students with virtual coins that could be used to unlock mini-games, music and wallpaper images as they completed their lessons.

“They actually learn about saving and spending, while being rewarded for continuing their progress in the program,” said Gibbons.

DreamBox tracks the academic progress of all students, and provides teachers with valuable data that can be used to develop targeted instruction.

“Every lesson they provide is aligned to a TEKS standard,” explained Gibbons. “By reviewing the data, I can more effectively differentiate instruction, plan one-on-one intervention strategies as needed and close learning gaps in my classroom."

The self-directed, personalized learning experience of DreamBox allows students to progress beyond their current grade level.

“I have kids now working far above grade level—some as high as fifth grade,” said Gibbons. “It’s great for those Gifted and Talented kids because it keeps them consistently engaged, and it’s great for those kids that want to take their skills to the next level because there is no ceiling. It’s all student directed and at their own pace.”

Mae Smythe Elementary Principal Denise Moody, third grade teacher Ben Gibbons, Assistant Principal Ariel Peña, Pasadena ISD mathematics specialist Janet Nuzzie
Mae Smythe Elementary Principal Denise Moody, third grade teacher Ben Gibbons, Assistant Principal Ariel Peña, Pasadena ISD mathematics specialist Janet Nuzzie