Magazine article Technology & Learning

Making Math Work: Educators Can Turn to Technology to Help Their Students Grasp Difficult Math Concepts

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Making Math Work: Educators Can Turn to Technology to Help Their Students Grasp Difficult Math Concepts

Article excerpt

Mathematics teachers at all levels of public school education want their students to understand and apply math concepts. When students use different technologies in the classroom, they will become engaged in meaningful learning that helps them to move from abstract ideas to hands-on applications. Students can "see" math concepts and manipulate those concepts quickly through technology.

Elementary School

Online videos. Watching online math videos can help elementary school students see and apply the geometry concept of patterns. The videos present many examples of patterns and non-patterns and allow the students to identify given examples.

Videoconferencing. One way students can learn to use representations is to communicate math through videoconferencing with another school. Participating schools can ask questions like How many students walk to school? Ride a bicycle to school? Get a ride from a parent or relative? Ride the bus? Each class answers the survey questions and creates an electronic spreadsheet, and then selects a graph to represent the information. The schools compare their graphs and talk about why they selected the specific graph to represent the information.

Whiteboards. Students can learn to analyze the characteristics and properties of two-dimensional geometric shapes through whiteboard activities. The students use the whiteboard to move and categorize the shapes by their angles and sides, a highly engaging and very visual learning activity.

Collaborative Web projects. An Internet-based collaborative grocery project is a great way to encourage kids to analyze and evaluate the mathematical thinking and strategies of other students. The hosting school starts by selecting five common foods, and then the classes from other states find their local prices and report back the information. Each class (or group within each class) creates math problems based on that information, ranging from the simple (How much does two gallons of milk and two loaves of bread from Ithaca cost?) to the more complex (What percent increase is the highest priced half gallon of ice cream compared to the lowest priced one?) The other class solves the problems and explains its thinking strategy. The problem-creating class verifies the answer and provides feedback and evaluation.

Computers. Students can create their own math problems based on understanding ways to represent numbers. They can form a percentage and decimal problem by creating 10 shapes of various types using Inspiration. For example, one student might make four blue squares, five red circles, and one yellow triangle. After all the students have created their math problems, the students go around the lab or laptops. They stop at each computer and write down the percent of the total for each type of shape and its decimal equivalent in their learning log. Each student shares the answers for his or her own problem.

Middle School

Digital cameras. Using a digital camera is one way students can connect mathematical concepts with the world at large. For example, they could take pictures of geometric shapes around the school--like a baseball field--to create their own math problems. A sample question, such as, If the school wants to fence in the baseball field, how much fencing would it take? can be answered by supplying the field's width and length dimensions. Questions can be posted to a class Web site or blog for other classmates to answer. …

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