Elementary School Teachers Help Students Tackle Math With Help From the IBM Foundation & Education Leaders

ARMONK, NY – 13 Sep 2017: As the new school year begins, elementary school teachers across the United States are now able to access a new, free online tool designed to strengthen their math instruction and help students learn at higher levels.

Free Watson Tool Helps Elementary School Teachers Devise Strategies for Math Instruction

Elementary school teachers across the nation are beginning to use Teacher Advisor With Watson, a free online tool powered by IBM Watson artificial intelligence technology to help them confidentially access targeted lesson plans and video for math instruction. About 1,000 curated lesson plans and teaching strategies have been vetted for quality and are available so far. The software developed by the IBM Foundation, in collaboration with the American Federation of Teachers, renowned educators, education non-profits, funders, and content providers, provides educators with targeted guidance to help strengthen their teaching skills and improve student achievement. Shown from left to right in this photo is Ulana Ainsworth, a special education teacher for fourth and fifth grade in the Boston Public Schools; Cliff Archey, a former teacher who now manages education programs for IBM Citizenship; and Sheena Lee, an elementary school teacher in the Boston Public Schools. (Credit: John Mottern/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

Today, the IBM (NYSE: IBM) Foundation announced the availability of Teacher Advisor With Watson 1.0, software that uses Watson artificial intelligence technology– trained by some of the nation’s leading math experts, with feedback from more than 1,000 teachers across dozens of US states – to provide elementary school teachers with targeted math resources for their kindergarten through fifth grade classrooms.

Faced with the pressures of limited time, higher academic standards, diverse student needs, and the responsibility to teach many subjects and multiple grade levels, elementary school teachers have expressed a critical need for easy-to-use, well-designed math resources and ongoing support. Even with the best resources, many teachers lack dedicated coaching and struggle to target effective teaching strategies that help students improve their proficiency in math, a linchpin academic subject.

Teacher Advisor With Watson was designed to help address these challenges by providing elementary school educators with access to more than 1,000 high quality math lessons, top teaching strategies, and videos — all powered by Watson’s ability to deliver targeted recommendations. This one-stop resource empowers teachers to make more informed decisions on the best approach for their students. Teachers seeking to master new skills or prepare instruction for their students at multiple skill and grade levels can easily:

  • Access quality math resources designed to meet diverse classroom needs
  • Understand the academic prerequisites and standards mapped to each lesson
  • Apply teaching techniques to help bring lessons to life
  • Type in a math concept and get targeted recommendations

IBM Watson can understand the meaning behind teachers’ queries and deliver the most relevant answers through its cognitive computing capabilities (Watson Discovery Service), trained by teachers in the language of elementary math. With more training and teacher use, Watson’s expertise and ability to help them will continually increase.

IBM’s technologists worked closely with the American Federation of Teachers, national education leaders, and math teachers to develop this free online resource. Hosted on IBM Cloud, the tool offers high-quality, vetted teaching material from a range of education experts and non-profits, including UnboundEd, Student Achievement Partners, Illustrative Mathematics, CPALMS, EngageNY, Achieve, and AFT’s Share My Lesson.

“This innovative tool, built together with teachers, was a true team effort,” said Stanley S. Litow, President Emeritus of the IBM Foundation and a former deputy chancellor of the New York City Public Schools. “We collaborated with the American Federation of Teachers and education leaders to create a free unique resource to help teachers hone their skills and get coaching assistance–all with the goal of helping to educate America’s young learners more effectively. Through Teacher Advisor, IBM continues its commitment to innovation and STEM education.”

“Many educators must meet the demands of teaching with little support,” said Jennifer Ryan Crozier, President of the IBM Foundation and VP of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs. “Teacher Advisor will save teachers time, continually deepen their expertise, and help them meet their diverse student needs. We’re excited to collaborate with education leaders and teachers to help them do what they do best–unlock a child’s passion for STEM learning.”

“Teachers shoulder endless challenges and responsibilities—mastering content, standards and curriculum, and meeting the diverse needs and abilities of each of their students,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Too often, teachers are expected to do all this single-handedly, but Teacher Advisor could help change that. The AFT worked hand-in-glove with the IBM Foundation to hone this tool and see how it empowers teachers and benefits students. This effective public-private partnership is a testament to what can be achieved when educators are entrusted with innovative technology to support powerful learning.”

“Teacher Advisor empowers teachers by providing expert advice to help them deliver high-quality instruction that meets their students’ needs,” said Michael Cohen, President of Achieve, Inc. “Watson’s ability to learn and to learn how to learn is important in its own right, but it means that this exciting innovation will develop and become smarter over time.”

“Time is of the essence for teachers,” said Sheena Lee, an elementary school teacher at Umana Academy in Boston, MA. “With a classroom full of third through fifth graders who have had inconsistent education in their lives, I need to help my students learn math in different ways, at different levels. Teacher Advisor With Watson offers a one-stop shop for the most trusted resources, enabling me to decide how best to meet my students where they are.”

Foundation funding partners include the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and Carnegie Corporation of New York.