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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 21, 2011

UI offers new Web-based resources to maximize student math potential

Two new online resources recently developed by University of Iowa experts will help educators and parents know if students are on track to develop their full math potential.

One resource, the Inventory for Decisions about Educational Acceleration and Learning (IDEAL) Solutions for Math Acceleration, is a Web-based system that provides student-centered feedback to inform decisions about academic acceleration in math for elementary and middle school students. 

Co-developers Susan Assouline (photo, left) and Nick Colangelo from the UI College of Education Belin-Blank Center for Talented and Gifted Development led a team in developing the Web-based system. Both educators and parents can use the program at to assess whether students are in a math program that is best matched to their potential.

The other resource, the Iowa Algebra Readiness Assessment, was developed by the UI College of Education Iowa Testing Program and is offered online for the first time this month. Educators can use the results from this aptitude test to enter into IDEAL Solutions as a tool to assess a student’s math potential.

Both resources are fee-based, though IDEAL Solutions will provide coupons to educators and parents over the next few months to give them the opportunity to use the service at no cost.

“It’s no longer news that American students have mediocre performance on math tests in comparison to international counterparts, as underscored by the ‘calls to action’ issued by several national advisory panels over the past few years,” said Assouline, Belin-Blank Center associate director. “What is news is that there is now a response.”

In particular, the National Mathematics Advisory Panel’s 2008 report recommends that districts need to ensure that all prepared students have access to algebra by eighth grade, Assouline said.

“For general students, this is great, but for mathematically talented students, the need for algebra will be present well before eighth grade,” Assouline said.

This resource is also an outgrowth of the report “Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students” and work done by faculty with the UI Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration.

“Because of our work in these areas, we received additional funding through the John Templeton Foundation last year to develop a web-based system to help parents and educators of elementary and middle-school students make informed decisions about academic acceleration in the area of mathematics, the area where U.S. students traditionally underperform compared to other industrialized countries,” Assouline said.

She said that every year, thousands of elementary and junior high students who score well on grade-level tests are invited to take above-level tests through a talent search, such as the one conducted by the Belin-Blank Center.

“The students who take the talent search tests take tests that are at grade levels that are two, three, four, and sometimes five years above their grade level,” Assouline said. “On average, these talented students out-perform the students in the higher grades. In other words, fifth graders who take the eighth grade test EXPLORE (developed by ACT), on average, earn a score that is higher than the average scores of the eighth graders taking the same test.  Without the advantage of three additional years of school, these academically talented fifth graders students out-perform the eighth graders.”
This does not necessarily mean that they are ready to be placed in eighth grade, Assouline said, but it does suggest that they are ready for more challenge.

“The IDEAL Solutions for Math Acceleration website is designed to help parents and educators of mathematically talented students understand the degree to which they would benefit from additional challenge,” Assouline said. “The report that is generated offers documentation for both parents and educators. The report also provides a detailed summary of the research related to acceleration.”

To generate the report, parents and educators take a 10-minute guided survey that asks for student information such as their Iowa Tests of Basic Skills math scores or results from other tests such as the Iowa Algebra Aptitude Test, developed by the UI College of Education Iowa Testing Program. This test is regarded as a standard in the field of math education, for use by educators, to make decisions about algebra placement. Iowa educators have the option of using the newly developed online version, the Iowa Algebra Readiness Assessment.

The Iowa Algebra Readiness Assessment is being offered online for the first time this month. Educators or parents interested in having students take the assessment need to contact Iowa Testing Programs. Once students take the assessment, the results can be entered into IDEAL Solutions for Math Acceleration as another piece of data to help determine their level of math readiness.

For more information on IDEAL Solutions for Math Acceleration, call Assouline at 319-335-6148. For more information on the Iowa Algebra Readiness Assessment, call Catherine Welch with UI Iowa Testing Programs at 319-335-6274 or visit

“This collaborative effort is really about helping young people succeed to the fullest extent possible,” Welch said. “The powerful information resulting from this effort will help guide parents and educators to ensure students are challenged and engaged.”

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Center One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center, 319-335-6148,; Catherine Welch, UI Testing Programs, 319-335-6274; Lois J. Gray, 319-384-0077,