One Math Center, All Ability Levels

This is a guest post from our friend Brian, a 1st grade teacher and technology leader who is using Happy Numbers with his class of 26 students in Oswego, IL. Say hello to him on Twitter @BrianWiesbrook!  If you are interested in sharing your story of using Happy Numbers, don’t hesitate to email us!


Due to varying kindergarten experiences, my students have a wide range of ability in math. Children in general develop their number sense and problem-solving skills at very different rates, so there are always multiple levels of learners present in any classroom. As any primary teacher knows, it is essential to differentiate instruction to meet these various needs. I’m lucky to have an ipad and a couple of laptops in the classroom, and I like to use them to support the learning of numeracy in our class. I’m always looking for new resources that use technology to reach all students and some months ago I stumbled upon Happy Numbers, which has quickly become a powerful tool to support my mathematics instruction.


In this post, I’ll share how Happy Numbers helps create an equitable learning environment through assisting in differentiation during my mathematics block, provides a quick and easy assessment of mathematics skills, helps extend learning beyond the classroom, and reinforces Common Core mathematics skills for primary students.


1. Equitable Learning Environment

By using Happy Numbers, my students are able to practice a variety of skills ranging from early counting patterns through two-digit addition and subtraction. I have been able to address counting on a number line with some students, while at the same time introducing early multiplication patterns to other students.


This has assisted in making my daily mathematics instruction even more effective, as Happy Numbers has helped extend the time I can tier a mathematics lesson. Now, I am able to provide an equitable learning environment for all students during my math block without compromising the amount of time I am physically working with each of my groups.


I first work with a group of students on, say, addition facts through five using manipulatives, pictures, and number sentences. During this time I can re-teach skills or provide teacher-led enrichment activities as well as complete formative assessments to track my students’ progress in mathematics. Following teacher-driven activities, I have my students immediately go to my computer station and practice the same skills with digital manipulatives using a computer-monitored tool!


Happy Numbers has truly made learning early numeracy skills a “happy” experience for my students this year because of its natural progression of skills, as well as the intuitive design that is easy for young children to navigate. As students try new activities in Happy Numbers they are provided a short animated tutorial and guided practice through the first exercises in a set and then receive prompts from Happy Numbers if they do not complete a skill correctly on future attempts. Prompting from Happy Numbers includes guiding students through activities using a step-by-step format and providing additional questions to point out areas of weakness or simple counting mistakes. As a teacher, the self-correcting feature within Happy Numbers is an added benefit that other programs do not always offer and helps prevent my students from developing incorrect habits in their mathematical thinking.


2. Easy Assessment Features

After my students complete an activity within Happy Numbers I can later log in to my account to monitor their progress in their assigned activities. From there, I can either have them repeat activities or move on to more difficult skill sets based on my classroom assessment as well as the results logged in Happy Numbers.


Further, as if simply addressing a wide range of mathematics skills wasn’t enough, Happy Numbers recently introduced a differentiation tool that allows me to group my students and assign specific activities based on their ability. This provides the potential to address up to five different ability groups at the same time using the same tool with just a few easy mouse clicks! By using this feature, I was able to quickly begin supplementing and reinforcing skills that I teach during guided math sessions through immediate follow up with Happy Numbers.


3. Learning beyond the Classroom

Fortunately, students are able to access Happy Numbers from any of the devices available in my classroom (or from home) since it is a web-based service. They simply choose their name in my classroom account and then enter their unique password to immediately access the exercises I have selected for them. To make it easier for my students to navigate to our classroom-specific page on Happy Numbers, I created a direct link on the navigation bar of my classroom blog:


This allowed me to make the best use of the technology that is available in my classroom. Since my students use a combination of laptops, iPads, and Android tablets, having a web-based service allows my students to access their assigned activities and continue from day to day using any device. It also allows my students to continue practicing skills at home since they can access our Happy Numbers classroom site through my blog using any device at home as well. In fact, I have a few students who enjoyed Happy Numbers so much they continued practicing skills at home, even without it being assigned as homework!


4. Common Core Alignment

Over the next several months, the Oswego 308 school district will be shifting toward a new, Common Core-aligned mathematics curriculum across all grade levels that promotes a deeper understanding of the processes of mathematical thinking. While much of my instruction will shift to align with these standards and integrate daily formative assessments, Happy Numbers will continue to be a part of my classroom as all of the activities and skills included practically mirror the progression of mathematics skills and understandings in the Common Core. Again, as a classroom teacher, I am appreciative of Happy Numbers having the foresight to use current research in educational paradigm to make sure that their program is relevant in a modern primary classroom.


On a final note, I am continually impressed by and thankful for one of Happy Numbers’ creators, Evgeny Milyutin. He has been willing to include me in some of his pilot testing of the latest features that Happy Numbers has to offer and listen to my suggestions from a teacher’s perspective. I can truthfully say that Happy Numbers is an excellent, student-centered mathematics tool that keeps both student learning and a teacher’s instructional needs at the forefront of all components. Happy Numbers has truly made a positive impact on my instruction and, most importantly, on my students’ learning.


BrianBrian Wiesbrook is a 1st Grade Teacher at Prairie Point Elementary School in Oswego Community Unit School District #308 in Oswego, IL. He received his B.A. in Elementary Education from North Central College in Naperville, IL, and has received his Technology Specialist Endorsement. He is also completing requirements for an M.A. in Educational Technology from Aurora University in Aurora, IL. Brian teaches summer enrichment courses as well as Saturday enrichment courses for students in grades K-3 through Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development.