The longer educators stand in opposition to technology in the math classroom, the more challenging it will be to engage today’s students.
For better or worse, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a student apart from some form of mobile technology. In some cases, children have grown up holding smartphones longer than they’ve held baby bottles. This reality suggests students expect technology to be part of their learning experience.
As students eagerly embrace technology, schools should also use technology to help teach mathematics and deepen understanding in effective ways.
Making this possible, however, requires schools to implement engaging tools and dynamic technology that:
- Closes learning gaps and boosts learning outcomes
- Is sustainable regardless of financial or budgetary constraints
- Compliments daily instruction, easily and seamlessly
- Helps students with diverse learning needs concretize mathematical concepts
In the journal Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, Robert Powers and William Blubaugh — professors of mathematical sciences at the University of Northern Colorado — believe preparing tomorrow’s teachers to use technology is a necessity.
Teachers will use technology appropriately and effectively in their mathematics classrooms if they are familiar and comfortable with the technology and, especially, if they have had successful experiences with the technology in an instructional environment…
Today’s [students] were born into a world with technology. Using technology during mathematics instruction is natural for them, and to exclude these devices is to separate their classroom experiences from their life experiences.
But first, what kinds of technology do you find in math classrooms?
Types of technology in the math classroom
Though the number of overhead projectors are dwindling, they still exist in mathematics classrooms that lack access to technologically-advanced alternatives.
Minimally interactive, this piece of original ed-tech allows teachers or students to write on transparencies and project their work onto a screen.
TVs and DVD players
Most teachers today will opt for a YouTube video, but every now and then a television and DVD player will make an appearance.
Many people would agree that the visual aspect of video is engaging. However, watching movies or short videos sometimes results in passive watching, which can hinder the learning process.
That said, depending on students’ behavior or unexpected changes to the daily teaching schedule, a video can be just what students need.
Parents, teachers, and school leaders have long debated the use of calculators in the classroom. In The Conversation, Western Sydney University mathematics professor, Catherine Attard, writes:
When calculators are used in primary classrooms, it’s usually to help children develop number sense, to investigate number patterns and relationships, or to check the accuracy of mental or written computation.
There is also evidence that children become more flexible in the way they compute through the use of calculators. It allows them to apply their knowledge of place value and other number-related concepts rather than using a traditional algorithm.
Students can also benefit from using calculators in the context of real-world applications like financial literacy and budgeting.
Thanks to smart boards, teachers can say goodbye to sneeze-inducing, eye-watering chalk dust and blackboards. Unlike the blackboard, teachers can save whatever content they write on the smart board.
You can also sync the classroom computer or tablet to the whiteboard, allowing everyone to see an otherwise small screen.
From surfing websites to playing apps, smart boards have truly revolutionized the 21st century classroom.
Computers — like desktops, laptops, and tablets — are also a great tool for showing virtual models of mathematics, making graphs, and accessing educational materials that textbooks may not possess.
Using classroom computers also enables students to engage in project-based learning. For example, teachers can challenge students to design their own theme park. In addition to allowing them to plan, research, exercise imagine and problem solve, it requires the use of math skills.
Educators are divided on the issue of whether or not students should use smartphones in the classroom. Research suggests access to smartphones during class can be a blessing or a curse. However, “bring your own device”, or BYOD, initiatives continue to roll out in schools and across districts.
While teachers fear — many times correctly — smartphones will only harm students’ learning abilities and fuel smartphone addiction, some use the latest technology quite effectively.
Take Ken Halla, a ninth-grade teacher, for example: “Not every classroom can get a laptop every day, so [devices like smartphones], even if you have to pair up, become something useful for teachers.”
To combat distraction and the temptation to hop on social media, “Halla roams around the room helping students with their work, all the while overseeing everything to make sure that they’re staying on task.”
Using technology for technology’s sake
Technology has profoundly changed education. In their “Guiding Principles for School Mathematics”, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) states:
An excellent mathematics program integrates the use of mathematical tools and technology as essential resources to help students learn and make sense of mathematical ideas, reason mathematically, and communicate their mathematical thinking.
However, teachers ought to avoid using technology in the math classroom just for the sake of it — i.e., without first being equipped to use a given tool efficiently and effectively.
When it comes to technology, you need to be a critical consumer. Here are nine qualities you must evaluate when adopting math software.
Major benefits of math technology in the classroom
Though it may be hard to see at times, there are incredible benefits technology can have on both teaching and learning.
1. Accommodates different learning styles
Technology and multimedia can complement each other extremely well in the math classroom. Whether teachers incorporate videos, animations or game-based apps, these tools help bring learning math to life.
For example, kinesthetic learners learn more effectively when tasks are hands-on. Using interactive math websites and educational apps which involve play will them help solidify abstract mathematical concepts.
2. Addresses individual learning needs
— Tollcross Primary School (@TollcrossP) March 17, 2019
An educator’s first epiphany is probably this fact: the learning process is non-linear. Because no two learners are exactly alike, personalized learning strategies allow students to get the right kind of education based on their learning styles and interests.
Integrating educational technology learning platforms enables self-paced learning and, oftentimes, increased learning outcomes.
Prodigy — a zero-cost, game-based learning platform used by more than a million teachers and school leaders, and 50 million students around the world — is one example of ed-tech classrooms and buildings can use to address individual learning needs.
School leader? Check out the seven reasons why Prodigy is right for your building or district.
3. Makes abstract mathematical concepts relevant
Technology can help students realize just how ingrained math is in the real-world. Using applications such as Skype or FaceTime in the classroom, teachers schedule video calls with people whose professions require mathematical skills and concepts.
For example, kids today might be surprised to hear that learning math is vital for someone who creates video games! Other career possibilities include computer animation, data science, market research, meteorologist — and that’s just scratching the surface.
4. Improves student engagement
Some classroom technology opens the door to a world of math apps and math websites. A teacher’s ability to use these to create and present mathematics content can turn students into engaged, active learners.
The more engaged students are, the deeper they’ll delve into the subject. What’s more, tools that use adaptive learning technology — like providing scaffolding customized to individual students — help them solve unique trouble spots.
An effective adaptive learning program will use, for example, differentiated instruction to help students at varying levels of understanding. Delivering math content based on their capabilities helps keep low- and high-level learners engaged because both are able to find success.
5. Enhances traditional ways of teaching
According to Dr. Matthew Larson, curriculum specialist and past president of the NCTM, the research is clear:
Appropriate use of technology can enhance students’ understanding of mathematical concepts. The use of technology also dictates that we instructionally broaden our goals beyond answer finding to include a focus on the reasonableness of answers and how results will be used in a given context. This is critical so students don’t blindly accept the answers a calculator may provide.
Despite the seemingly endless list of digital tools, this isn’t to say that teachers must use technology in every math lesson. However, employing it at the right time and in the right place can help students in numerous ways. For example, teachers can:
- Use Google Docs and monitor student collaboration on group projects
- Create presentations on Prezi and use a smart board to deliver instruction
- Assign exercises using adaptive learning platforms, such as: Prodigy Math, Splash Math, or Motion Math
Prodigy: An easy, effective, zero-cost solution
Thinking of integrating technology in the math classroom? Prodigy is the most engaging, curriculum-aligned math platform in the world. More than a million teachers and school leaders use Prodigy to:
- Engage students through gamification
- Pinpoint students’ problem areas with adaptive learning
- Create Plans and Assignments for entire classes or individual students
- Obtain live data and reports on students’ usage and progress
Depending on students’ diverse trouble spots and individual learning needs, educators can easily:
- Differentiate instruction
- Deliver first- and second-tier Response to Intervention
- Assign types of formative assessment
- Conduct spiral assessments
- Prep for standardized tests and more
Because of these features, schools using Prodigy continue to outperform those that don’t on standardized assessments.
Create similar results in your district!
Interested in what the most engaging math platform in the world is like? Try Prodigy — the zero-cost, adaptive math platform used by more than a million teachers and school leaders across 90,000 buildings.
School leaders can use Prodigy to:
- Gauge student preparation for standardized testing
- Inform teacher instruction to drive student achievement
- Pinpoint students’ working grade levels and their levels on key strands
Fill out the form below for a free, personalized demo of Prodigy tailored to your building or district! 👇