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Web Tools for Common Core

24 Jul 2014 by Marsha Branch

“13 Year-Old Girl Excels In School,” not exactly a newsworthy headline, but if you knew that Mary-Kaylin Linch has a brain tumor that affects her ability to process and retain information, and that — in spite of this — she’s excelling in a school that has implemented the Common Core State Standards, then the story suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.

Mary-Kaylin & Mom Michele Linch Working On Homework Assignment Together

Since their implementation in 2009, Common Core critics have dismissed the standards as being too difficult, saying they are setting children up to fail.  But while supporters agree the work is challenging, they argue the standards are preparing kids for the real world.  So it’s no surprise that schools experiencing success with Common Core credit real world tools like apps and the Internet with their success.

“There is always an app for everything you want to teach,” said MK’s math teacher, Rebecca Riley. “You just need to do the research.”

The 7th and 8th grade teacher at eSTEM Public Charter School in Little Rock, Arkansas is a Common Core supporter and is among thousands of teachers nationwide who incorporate various web tools into their lessons as they teach the standards. These range from websites and apps created specifically for Common Core to general tools used to make teaching more interactive and fun.


It’s the interactive element that Mary-Kaylin enjoys most. Being hands-on helps with retention she said.  Her favorite tool is Compass Learning Odyssey, a web-based K-12 learning solution with programs aligned to Common Core standards.

“It has little videos of teachers teaching you the concepts and its pretty fun to use, because they give real world problems,” Mary-Kaylin said.

She uses Compass at least 30 minutes a week with math — the subject critics are most vocal about. In some cases, math concepts are being taught two grades earlier than they were before Common Core, and many say the new curriculum is just too hard.

But Riley says it need not be.  With a little creativity, patience and willingness to do the research, math class can be fun.

Rebecca Riley

“A lot of the textbook companies put apps out,” she said.  “One I have found that is aligned with Common Core is called HMH Fuse…and it’s basically an interactive online textbook that has videos and motion graphics embedded in it [and] the kids can work through it at their own pace.”

What Riley likes most about HMH Fuse and other online resources is that they help kids truly grasp math concepts, rather than practice rote learning techniques.

She shared her top 10 web tools and resources for Common Core.



Common Core-specific tools and resources aren’t the only ones teachers are using to increase comprehension and class participation.

3-QR CodeQR Codes – The QR Reader is one of several apps that enable students to use their smartphones and tablets as learning devices. Teachers can generate a free QR Code – a bar code consisting of black and white squares – that contains URLs and other assignment specific information. The code can be added to a Power Point presentation or handout as a convenient way to direct students to related resources or collect more information on the topic.


Google Docs – The ever-popular Google suite of apps for education is a classroom favorite. Google Docs, available both as an app and via a web browser, enables students to collaborate on projects from their individual devices. Writing and editing is done in real time, with each student seeing changes as they are made. The app also offers an easy way for students to analyze and share research findings.

Live Binder – While the Internet is an invaluable tool for students, the information a Google search generates can be overwhelming. Back in the day, a simple three-ring binder provided a simple way to store and catalog information. However, the electronic age has pretty much rendered them obsolete.  So, enter Live Binder, the digital three-ring binder that allows students to organize all of their information – webpages, PDFs, documents, images and videos – by tabs and sub-tabs.

Challenging, yes, Mary-Kaylin says. Common Core work definitely is, but all of the resources at her fingertips make learning Core work fun.

Her advice to students who find it too hard is to “Get online. That would probably help them out a lot if they are having trouble grasping the concepts of the Common Core Standards.”

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