Review by Shaun Langevin, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2018

Zearn

Innovative combo of live instruction and adaptive online math lessons

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Math

Skills
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
K–5
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (7 Reviews)

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Pros: Thorough scaffolding and reinforcement of learned skills, great resources for live instruction, and tons of useful data.

Cons: Could use more open-ended multiple-solution problems.

Bottom Line: If you're looking for the perfect balance of online lessons and in-person support, at home or in school, look no further.

Zearn is very clear about the intended use for the program: Students should begin class with whole-group instruction. Next, students get in-class time working independently or with one or two partners on digital lessons, then work in small groups with a teacher to "deepen, extend, and remediate" based on detailed reports of student progress. In our experience, it's really best to stick to this plan -- there's not quite enough digital support available to expect kids to learn everything independently, and there's not quite enough content in the digital lessons to give enough practice and enough nuance, and the multiple perspectives so critical to mathematical understanding.

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Zearn is an online math curriculum (coupled with live whole- and small-group instruction) for grades one through five, with supplemental skills practice activities for kindergartners. Students open up to a dashboard with tasks to be completed; these include a variety of fluency warm-ups that promote general number sense and lesson-specific skills, as well as guided practice with interactive video lessons that feature enthusiastic human teachers and school-age children ("The Zearn Squad"). Students will also find an independent practice and formative assessment activity rolled into one (called the Tower of Power) and a summative exit ticket. Teachers have quick access to the curriculum from their own dashboard, as well as a handy Pace Report to help track student progress.

Full Disclosure: Zearn and Common Sense Education share funders; however, those relationships do not impact Common Sense Education's editorial independence and this learning rating.

Zearn has some big strengths that set it apart from other elementary digital math curricula. The first is excellent scaffolding: All lessons build from previous knowledge and spiral from accessing learned skills, from modeling new content to guided practice, independent articulation, and demonstrated mastery. This occurs at the micro level and in overall curriculum arcs. For instance, multiplication of two-digit numbers starts with already mastered single digits and adds multiples of 10, offering practice until students demonstrate mastery and before adding different values to the units place. Students are almost always locked into their zones of proximal development.

The online independent practice will help teach conceptual understanding with digital manipulatives. Likewise, it will try to correct student misconceptions with feedback. The live instruction components of Zearn are necessary to ensure both of these areas are addressed for students.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The online content is engaging, with good scaffolding to keep kids motivated. It's best coupled with the recommended small-group live instruction and whole-group fluency warm-up.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Extensive scaffolding drives the online student experience. Each lesson builds on previous skills, breaks work down into clear steps, and offers chances to go further. For a fairly direct instruction curriculum, it's solid teaching.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The primary support vehicle is you. Thankfully, there's rich data to support students. Whole- and small-group lesson plans and on-demand PD are useful additions, while captions and text-to-speech help aid diverse learners.


Common Sense Reviewer
Shaun Langevin Technology coordinator

Teacher Reviews

(See all 7 reviews) (7 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Hannah P. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Cohn Elementary School
Port Allen, United States
My kids love Zearning and so do I :)
I am a huge fan of Zearn, especially the 50/50 model with a built in flex day. I feel like I have such a great grasp of what my students have mastered along with what they are struggling with. Since I am able to see each student each day, I am able to help them out when their confusion is small, instead of waiting for a test to reteach. My students absolutely love Zearn, I was a little nervous in the beginning about how they would do working independently since I would be teaching a small group, but ...
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