Demystifying Math: SMALLab Helps Students Score 21% Higher in Trigonometry



Doug Ray is a mathematics teacher at Oglethorpe County High School, located approximately 90 miles east of Atlanta, GA. Beginning his career as an IT professional, Ray struggled to find stable companies in the wake of the 2008 economic recession. Returning to school to pursue a passion in both mathematics and teaching, Ray joined the Oglethorpe faculty in 2018 and, now teaches 6 sections of geometry.

A rural school in a low to moderate income region, Oglethorpe is a socially, economically, and ethnically diverse school that graduates a significant portion of students into both 2- and 4-year colleges as well as the trades.


With nearly a decade of teaching experience, Ray has witnessed an evolution in high school math requiring greater critical reasoning and reading comprehension. “In today’s math classrooms,” Ray notes, “students have to do much more reading than they did 10 years ago. That makes things like vocabulary very important to the students’ success.”

As a geometry teacher, Ray was particularly aware of the challenge. He adds, “Geometry is full of terms, and so-called ‘Tips’ charts aren’t always effective because they don’t address the vocabulary challenge.”

Committed to finding a better way to help his students, Ray turned to SMALLab.


Ray introduced his geometry students to SMALLab using the “Memory” scenario. In the lab, students match vocabulary terms with their definition as well as with the appropriate picture. Notes Ray, “You can’t be successful in geometry without a basic understanding of the terms involved, and in a word—SMALLab worked.”

When you see students being successful this way, you know you’re doing something right.
— Doug Ray

Ray adds that SMALLab tapped into his students’ natural desires to win and to be competitive. “They [the students] want to be the best. The difference in SMALLab is that the students are competing to get the right answers, not to be the first to finish the test. When you see them being successful this way, you know you’re doing something right.”


At the end of the day, Ray and others understand that engaged learning is only as valuable as the outcomes it produces.

After using SMALLab, the average score in the trigonometry unit increased 21 percent.
— Doug Ray

“Board members have come up to me,” says Ray, “and they ask ‘I see the students having fun. I see that they’re engaged, but does that translate into results?’” The answer is yes. In his trigonometry unit, Ray notes that the average class score prior to using SMALLab was in the 70s. Afterward, they rose to 85--a 21 percent increase.

For Ray, though, success is about more than just the numbers. “They understand the concepts, and we have groups of students who don’t normally even talk to each other, but in SMALLab, they’re talking about math and working with each other to solve a problem. If the students are winning, they’re learning.”  

We have groups of students who don’t normally even talk to each other, but in SMALLab, they’re talking about math and working with each other to solve a problem.
— Doug Ray

Oglethorpe’s SMALLab was made possible by ABM Industries, Inc.

In touting the success of SMALLab at Oglethorpe County High School, Ray is quick to add that the school’s SMALLab was funded through an innovative partnership with ABM Industries, Inc. Through the help of ABM, Oglethorpe saves energy as a result of newly-installed features such as motion-triggered lights, low-energy LED bulbs, new door sweeps, and more. Best of all, ABM guarantees its projected savings and fronts those dollars to help schools like Oglethorpe get SMALLab.


“Everything ABM does is about making education better and more efficient,” says Ray. “A big part of this revolves around saving the school and district money on energy costs. Another big part of it is with projects like SMALLab. ABM is always giving back to the people who make this place work. They’re part of the family here.”

Joel Lowery, Vice President of Sales for ABM Technical Solutions, echoes Ray’s sentiments. “Helping schools like Oglethorpe turn energy savings into technology investments is a win-win for everyone. Still, innovative technologies like SMALLab require innovative teachers and forward-thinking schools. The students at Oglethorpe are fortunate to have both.”

About SMALLab

Imagine a place in your school where your students are smiling and deeply engaged in learning because they are using their entire bodies and collaborating as they learn. This is SMALLab. This is engaged learning in the Age of Distraction. SMALLab Learning improves student achievement by up to 86%, improves student engagement by nearly 7X, and improves teacher effectiveness by up to 33%. SMALLab research and development was conducted at Arizona State University and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Science Foundation, Intel, and many others. Join our community and help transform learning for your students.

SMALLab Learning began as a research project at Arizona State University, focused on how to combine the latest research into how students learn with the latest technology interfaces to create a system that dramatically improved learning. SMALLab Learning accomplished this by implementing technology in a way that makes it “invisible” to the student, while providing uniquely engineered game- and inquiry-based collaborative learning software modules that encourage students to work together to succeed.

About ABM

ABM is a leading provider of facility solutions with revenues of approximately $6.4 billion and approximately 140,000 employees in 350+ offices throughout the United States and various international locations. ABM’s comprehensive capabilities include janitorial, electrical & lighting, energy solutions, facilities engineering, HVAC & mechanical, landscape & turf, mission critical solutions and parking, provided through stand-alone or integrated solutions. ABM provides custom facility solutions in urban, suburban and rural areas to properties of all sizes - from schools and commercial buildings to hospitals, data centers, manufacturing plants and airports. ABM Industries Incorporated, which operates through its subsidiaries, was founded in 1909. For more information, visit