What A Week For Exam Elf!

Math App

As we sit here in the airport departure lounge in Austin, TX waiting to return to NYC we have an opportunity to pause and reflect on what has been an incredible week.

It all started at 2pm on Sunday when we pitched our math app, Exam Elf to 4 Superintendents who experienced first hand how Exam Elf is helping students, parents and teachers who are preparing for the upcoming STAAR exams. It was a really engaging and positive conversation and it feels great to have our app validated by an audience who are at the forefront of education.

We then had two days as an exhibitor within the Innovation Zone at the Texas Association of School Administrators Midwinter Conference and had the opportunity to speak with teachers, principals and superintendents and learnt from those on the front line of education, what was most important to them and how Exam Elf could work most effectively for students and teachers.

Two highlights were a veteran principal coming up to us at the end of the conference, and telling us he thought we had the best product there from over 800 exhibits and a special needs education teacher letting us know that our pilot special needs components are critically needed to help her work.

Since the presentation and exhibition we have received over 1,000 new users of Exam Elf and we’re growing by the minute. Thank you to all of you who have supported us on this amazing journey so far.

We also received our video which is now ready to be uploaded to the App Store, you can see it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4n_D_i1Szw

If you’d like to try Exam Elf out for yourself you can download the app here; https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/exam-elf/id839687025?mt=8

Oh, I almost forgot. If you’re ever in Texas make sure you try the Brisket!!!

Exam Elf

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Texas Association of School Administrators

Exam Elf Math App Common Core

It’s been a while since Exam Elf has blogged and boy have we been busy!  At the end of 2014 we were delighted to learn that our math app Exam Elf was selected to present at the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) Mid Winter Conference Innovation Zone being held at the Austin Convention Center 25-28 January.

The purpose of the Innovation Zone is to feature early stage, education market companies, selected by a panel of experts through an application process, that are searching for meaningful input and guidance about their products and services.

So, we’ve been busy preparing for our presentation, designing a new website, updating our app with a new look and feel as well as adding questions for Grades 7 and 8 to complement our existing Grades 4-6.

It’s our passion to help as many students, parents and teachers when preparing for Common Core Math Exams and we’d like to thank all of the wonderful people who have supported us on our journey so far.

We’ll keep you updated on our presentation and we look forward to being a part of this exciting conference.  If you’re attending pop by and see us at Booth #554.

Learning Is Fun – Keep It That Way!

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The Ultimate Gift!

Common Core Math Test - Exam Elf

The holiday season has arrived.  It’s usually a busy, exciting and often exhausting period for everyone.  Taking the time to pause and  appreciate what we have is empowering and humbling.  At a time of year when many celebrate Christmas with their loved ones, spare a thought for those less fortunate.

For many, Christmas is a time of giving and receiving presents.  But for many it’s also a reminder of what we don’t have.  A reminder of the money we don’t have, or the present’s we’d love to give but simply cannot afford.  Maybe it’s a neighbours first Christmas on their own. Perhaps a friends family is on the other side of the world.

Over the next few days take the time to help someone. This could be as simple as saying ‘hello’. I know, scary huh?! Offer to carry someone’s shopping, open a door, leave a generous tip. You could offer a warm meal or clothing to someone sleeping rough.

Christmas marks a special time in the year to gather family, relatives and close friends. Enjoy their company and tell them how much they mean to you.

“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.

We will be judged by ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in.’

Hungry not only for bread — but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing — but naked for human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks — but homeless because of rejection.”

Mother Teresa

From all of us at Exam Elf, have a wonderful Christmas and Happy Holidays! xx

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School Report Card

Exam Elf - Math App

I was clearing out an old filing cabinet over the weekend when I came across a handful of old school reports.  I made a cup of coffee, sat down and started reading through them in chronological order.  After a while I noticed a very clear trend and some reoccurring advice “if he applied himself he would earn higher grades”.

This got me thinking, what if I’d tried harder?  Would things be different now?  I then started to think about why I didn’t apply myself to the best of my ability.  Was it my fault that I didn’t try harder? Was it my parents? Was it my teachers? Maybe it was my friends? Maybe it was a combination of all of these.

I grew up in a fairly traditional and stereotypical family where spending time with my Mom or Dad to go over homework of an evening wasn’t really an option.  Dad came in late from work, had his dinner and would head to bed as he would be up and off to work before the sun came up.  Mom would be busy preparing dinner and then tidying up after us so homework was always left up to myself.  The results of this are as black and white as the ink on my school reports.

Now, as a parent of two young sons I make the time to sit with each of them to talk about their homework and the importance of an education later in life when things like being ‘cool’ and ‘popular’ don’t count.  As a family we recognise our own individual strengths and areas where we can improve and continue to develop.

I’ve since shared my school reports with my sons and explained to them how reading them make me feel as an adult.  I regret not trying harder and applying myself to the best of my ability.  I don’t want my children to feel the same.

**For the record, I don’t blame anyone for my results and I truly believe everything happens for a reason.  Today’s modern families live in a more mobile and flexible environment which offers me as a parent the time to sit with my children to complete their homework.

To see how we’re helping parents support their children with math homework check out our free app Exam Elf.

Exam Elf

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6 Ways To Give Your Children Constructive Feedback

Exam Elf

So you’ve created the right learning environment which is the first step to encouraging your child to complete their homework.  You sit with your child,  open the homework book and you’re ready to begin.

With the promise of 10mins TV after homework your child races through the questions and proudly declares that she’s finished!  You think to yourself ‘Wow, my child’s a genius’ before it becomes clear that is was a rush job with only 12 out of the 20 questions right.


As parents our initial reaction is to highlight which answers THEY got wrong and skim over the correct ones with a half-hearted ‘good girl’.  This is the WRONG way to give your children constructive feedback.

There’s various academic and anecdotal evidence available but the general feeling is that the magic ratio is 5:1.  This means that you should be giving your children 5 positive comments to every 1 negative comment.  Now you’re probably thinking 5 positive comments is a lot and you’re right, but it can take the form of positive body language such as smiling, clapping or giving thumbs up or a high-five.  Children respond to positive attention and this has an impact on their feelings and encourages them to continue the positive behavior.  So, here are Exam Elf’s ‘6 Ways To Give Your Children Constructive Feedback’

  1. Tone – it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.  A warm, soft and loving tone will be twice as effective as a harsh, direct and cold tone.
  2. Give positive encouragement of effort irrespective of outcome or result.
  3. Encourage your child to be confident and not to be scared of explaining how they came to their answer.
  4. Model the good behavior you want to see in your child through positive verbal and non-verbal communication
  5. Listen more, talk less (ever wondered why we have 2 ears and 1 mouth!)
  6. Recap all of the positives before finishing the homework.  This leaves your child feeling proud and motivated.

These are just 6 of our tips on how to provide constructive feedback.  Let us know any of your tips that you think other parents might find useful.

Exam Elf

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What’s The Most Important Ingredient For Thanksgiving?


Well, I can tell you it was a part of the 1621 Harvest Meal.  It was in the thoughts of Abraham Lincoln in 1863 when he declared the last Thursday of November would be a public holiday to celebrate Thanksgiving.  It’s all around you right now……..……….family!

From simpler times to the hustle and bustle of today’s modern life, the one constant that has remained strong is family.

How do you define family?

Those who share your blood right?  Mother, father , brother, sister.  The extended family including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.  Those that don’t share the same blood but you would give anything to protect them, foster families and children who have been adopted.   Your neighbours who always smile and say hello, who would help out at the drop of a hat.  Our teachers who are responsible for ensuring our children feel loved, feel included, to help them explore their own unique individuality, oh and ensuring they receive the best possible education.  Let’s also not forget our pets who are a major part of the family and we couldn’t imagine life without them.

For Exam Elf, today is about taking the foot off the gas and appreciating the one thing that has always been there, and will always be there, family.

Take a moment to give your loved ones a hug and tell them why you love them.  Pause for a moment and think of our troops who are overseas and will miss being with their families today.

Appreciate the holiday weekend and above all, appreciate family.

Happy Thanksgiving xx

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Creating The Right Learning Environment For Your Children

Boy Studying

Setting The Scene

Your boss wants that report before you leave tonight so that she can prepare before tomorrow mornings meeting, your partner is away on business so you’re picking up the kids from after school club, you’ll then have to negotiate rush hour traffic (while refereeing the arguments from the back!), get everyone into the house including their jackets, bags, lunch boxes, toy aeroplane and of course the pretty leaf found on the ground……. and did I mention it’s pouring with rain?! Once everyone’s inside you need to create a quick, nutritious and well-balanced dinner….. or two depending on what mood little Jonny’s in! After pleading with the kids to eat their vegetables it’s time to pop little Jonny in front of the tv with his favourite night-time programme whilst you clear the table to make room for the eldest child’s homework.

Option 1.

After stacking all the day’s mail and catalogues in a pile at one end of the dinner table you quickly pull the homework out, skim over the teachers guidance notes and instruct your child to work through their activity book whilst you take the opportunity to check Facebook on your mobile.  Your child starts to ask a question and before he can complete his sentence you give him the answer and he happily works through completing the book as instructed.  The house phone rings so you go into the other room to answer it and it’s Jane who’s had the most amazing weekend away at an exclusive spa and she wants to tell you all about it.  You take the phone back into the room where your son is doing his homework, you look over his shoulder to ensure he’s ‘on track’ as you walk around the room listening to Jane (who has no children) talk about the 1hr hot stone massage and amazing degustation menu.  Your child gets to the end of the worksheet and then you tell him to quickly run upstairs for bath time.

Option 2.

On the weekend you and your son identify a quiet, comfortable, well-lit, and clutter free area where you both agree will be a great learning environment.  After dinner, you both sit down beside each other at your ‘new learning area’ (not homework area) and you both take 3 deep breaths before starting.  You both talk about tonight’s game plan and how you’re going to tackle it i.e. start with english, then math and finish with science. While working through the learning you should try to relate it to the ‘real world’ so it has context outside of the school and so that it’s easily identifiable.  You will encourage problem solving and critical thinking instead of just memorizing the content.  Be supportive and offer praise for correct answers and work through their thinking on incorrect answers. Have you ever noticed yourself when something’s fun your level of engagement increases?  Try and develop a ‘learning is fun’ attitude and ideally offer a rewards and consequences system to encourage positive attitudes and behaviours.


As the producer of your child’s learning environment and by creating Option 2 you will provide a structured, comfortable, safe and enjoyable learning environment which will reinforce your child’s learning’s from school, as well as create a dedicated time for some one to one time for you both.

For some inspiration and ideas on how to create the right learning environment check out some of our favourites on Pinterest http://uk.pinterest.com/examelf/homework/

Finally, if your children are aged 9-11 then they might like our latest math app ExamElf which is free to download!  This educational mathematics app has been designed to help students by reinforcing content and by preparing them with standardized testing practices.

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