A new, locally developed approach to memorizing basic facts is helping students see an increase in test schools and comprehension.
The Chem21 system, created by local educators Eddie and Renee Brown, uses online repetitive quizzes to test and enforce students’ knowledge.
“Basically it’s an online flashcard system,” Eddie Brown said. “The way it is set up it has to be pretty basic stuff that a student could get in six or seven seconds if they really know it.”
Students have three ways to achieve the needed number of points.
These include answering a set number of questions correctly in a certain amount of time, getting multiple sets of questions correct regardless of the time or getting a set number correct across a number of sets of quizzes.
“The cool thing about that is no matter how you get your points, the first time you feel successful,” Brown said.
He said the system allows educators to help students learn the basic material, giving them a good foundation on which to build.
Ocoee Middle School is one of the local schools using Chem21.
“In 2010, we just implemented it very briefly to get them ready for TCAP (Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program) to review what we had already covered ... and we got some really good results,” math teacher Renee Brown said.
Brown said she was looking for a way to help her math students develop better basic math skills that she could build on during class time.
While using the quizzes, no calculators are permitted. Only pencil and paper can be used to figure out the answers.
“In timed quizzes, they are learning to speak and write math as a language,” she said. “And the students are having success.”
Last year the math educator began using the timed quizzes at the beginning of the year.
“I basically used it 20 to 30 minutes a day, three days a week,” she said.
Now she uses the system for all her math classes, spanning sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
“The biggest effect on my instruction last year was I never taught a basic skill in my direct instruction. The quizzes taught all that, so when I was ready to teach, they knew exactly what I was saying,” Renee Brown said.
She said results of this technique could be measured through TCAP scores.
“We had a 13 percentile growth on average for each student last year,” she said.
Some individual students saw even greater improvement, not just in proficiency, but in their attitude toward math.
For Ashley Harper, the repetitive quizzes are one reason she is in an honor math class this year
“It (math) was not one of her strong suits at all and she didn’t enjoy it either,” said Ashley’s mom Laura Harper.
After having Renee Brown for math and using the repetitive quizzes, Harper said Ashley started liking the class.
“It was her favorite class … I would like to see them continue it in other grades (and classes),” Harper said.
Renee Brown also said she hopes the use of the quizzes will expand beyond her class, and other teachers will be interested in implementing it.
One obstacle to expansion is the system requires each student to have a computer. Renee Brown was able to purchase mini-laptops for class through a grant. The school also has a classroom set of laptops that teachers can use when needed.
The Browns are currently pursuing nonprofit status for Chem21 and looking for grants to further develop the system.
The timed-quiz system has also been used with several courses at Lee University and a class at Cleveland State Community College.
The system has been used in marketing, physical science, environmental science, sociology, college algebra and some humanities classes at Lee University.
At Cleveland State the system was used with a chemistry class. Professors for these courses assign the quizzes as homework.
Other schools using the timed quizzes include the universities of Mississippi and Cincinnati.
Eddie Brown said it works well at the university level because the timed element forces student to focus.
For these classes, students take the same set of quizzes multiple times until they can get all the questions right in the set amount of time. Eddie Brown said if they are not successful the first time they must wait 12 hours before they can retake the quizzes
As students use the tests more and more, it forces the information into long-term memory and helps students remember it longer, according to Eddie Brown.
He said when students can answer 10 out of 10 questions correctly in the set time then they know the material.
The Chem21 system came about as a result of Eddie Brown wanting to develop a way to help students in his organic chemistry course seven years ago.
“I was always concerned, trying to figure out how students can learn better,” Eddie Brown said.
Even his best students did not begin studying for the test until four days before.
He said he developed the system and began assigning the repetitive quizzes in the hope the procrastinators in his class would begin studying sooner.
“What I found is that it helped everyone,” he said.
Results are evident in his students’ scores on the American Chemical Society Exam.
“For the longest time in the ’90s I was just hoping to get 50th percentile for my class … I didn’t think my classes here were like an average class yet,” he said.
After instituting the timed repetitive quiz method, Brown saw a change in his classes, and test scores increased.
“Since Spring 2006, I’ve not had anyone drop my organic chemistry class [in the] second semester,” he said. “That’s not heard of around the nation.”
Now, his classes test in the 60th percentile.
Eddie Brown said the system is not to replace complex homework such as essays. He said the quizzes help students build a foundation of basic information they will be able to use to complete homework assignments.