Teaching Math In the Digital Age: The Debate and More Resources (Part 2)

My experience with intertwining technology into my Math curriculum has been a roller coaster. Initially, 5 years ago, the attempt to combine the two knocked me down and out more than Mike Tyson in his prime. Once the initial problems occurred I felt like throwing in the towel but I knew if I could use tech with Math my lessons, student engagement, time management, and data collection would all be improved if I stuck with it.

Now, five years later, I have a system that is working for me and my population of students. I know that there are naysayers out there that are totally against anything tech in a math class besides a calculator, but I can say from my experience that student growth and achievement have gone up in my classes since I introduced tech into the game. My students are not always locked into a screen and there is always a time to put pencil to paper, or expos to whiteboards. What I am trying to get across is that there are powerful tools that technology can provide educators and I believe it is our duty to teach our students how to use them correctly so they can implement them in their college or career choices.

There have been many studies regarding tech with math and the overall consensus is that technology should be used to bolster learning. Researchers have stated that the key to being successful is to get accustomed to the programs and be educated on what you are exposing your math students to, so they can have success with the tech. There are downsides to using tech like distracted students and cheating, but the benefits far outweigh the cons according to research.

Picture of student working on a computer.

Students use Tinkercad to design 3D objects and models.

On that note, I am going to give you, the reader, a few more programs that are extremely effective when it comes to student engagement and technological skill. The first being Tinkercad, which is a student friendly version of Autodesk (design program). This program allows students to create 3 dimensional objects and can be used for geometry but also for engineering purposes. Tinkercad is used best when the teacher has a 3d printer because student ideas can come to forwishen over the course of a day of printing. I have used Tinkercad to teach area, angles, and volume for different shapes.Perfect cubes, cube roots and finding square roots could also be taught with the program as long as you take the time to create an assignment that includes Tinkercad. If the students have a google account they can save their designs in the cloud and upload them into google classroom with a few clicks of a button because it is a cloud based program. There are tutorials for the students and teachers on the site, and the best part of the program is that it is another free resource. The skills that students learn in Tinkercad can be used for jobs of the future and enable students to creatively engineer.


The next program is mainly for students to obtain vocabulary terms in a fun and creative way. It is called Flocabulary. Flocabulary is a website that creates rap music based on many different subjects and topics. My students enjoy the music and seem to retain more of the terms than traditional ways of teaching vocabulary in Math and any other subject. The students will usually watch a music video, do a few exercises based on the video, take a quiz, and then create their own rap using the vocabulary they used. This program is also synced with Google Classroom, so adding students and classes is as simple as a few clicks of the mouse. The only issue with this program is that it is not free. There are individual, school, and district plans that can be bought and are definitely worth the price.

Implementing these two programs will get your students more engaged and subsequently give them tools that can be used for their entire lives. Whether it be designing a new logo, car, a shape, or making music with a program, the students will definitely be better off going forward in their education with skills that are applicable to the real world. In this day and age being creative and collaborative are highly valuable in the work world and I believe we as educators should use the tools that will enable students to attain these skills rather than stifling their creativity with the same old curriculum.

Number Talks

“My students struggle with number sense.”

“I have students that don’t know their basic facts.”

“The students in my classroom lack the ability to reason about math problems.”

Common phrases heard in math classrooms. I have said them when I was teaching and I hear them now all too often in professional development sessions. But why? Why are our students not grasping these skills under our guidance? What are students missing? Our teachers are implementing the standards, providing engaging lessons, and reinforcing skills all throughout the year. What else can be done? But alas I have the answer!

Number talks. Short math conversations where students solve problems in ways that are meaningful to them. Little to no prep on the part of the teacher, with a huge return from students! You read that right, little to NO PREP on the part of the teacher. Why wouldn’t you try it?

Number talks, developed in the early 1990’s, have recently resurfaced with the shift of implementing the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics. The CA Math Framework references them as a strategy for increasing math discourse in the classroom and supporting the 8 Mathematical Practices that are foundational for learning in the CCSS. The Framework says, “the problems in a number talk are designed to elicit specific strategies that focus on number relationships and number theory. Students are given problems in either a whole- or small-group setting and are expected to mentally solve them accurately, efficiently, and flexibly. By sharing and defending their solutions and strategies, students have the opportunity to collectively reason about numbers while building connections to key conceptual ideas in mathematics.” (CDE, 2016) Implemented routinely for about 10 minutes a session, number talks have shown to increase students mathematical abilities to think flexibly, examine errors, identify misconceptions, and solve computation problems. All in all showing a strong understanding of number sense, fluency with math facts, and the ability reason about math without struggle.

numbertalk

But, don’t just take my word for it, hear from Sherry Parish, the author of Number Talks. Listen as she describes the process and its success. Consider watching students engage in at all grade levels. Dive in and take a look at the Number Talk resources linked in your SUSD Unit of Study resources; all available as Google Slide presentations (NO PREP) and chunked in a variety of skill sets.   And, finally ask for support or a demo in your classroom by reaching out to your site Instructional Coach or me, Angela Pilcher, at the Curriculum Department.

Ten minutes a day will change your phrases to

“My students are strong in their number sense!”

“I have students that know their basic facts!”

“The students in my classroom have the ability to reason about math problems!”

Desmos in the Classroom

I would like you to go to www.student.desmos.com and type in the class code: D7YNE5.  This card sort will help students convert between fractions, decimals, and percents.  In addition, students will visualize these representations using an area model.

This card sort is just one type of interactive activity that teachers can find or create on their own to engage students through the use of this online application. Not only can teachers get students to be more engaged but teachers can monitor and control the flow of the lesson from their dashboard. Teachers can see in real time what students are doing on the activity. This is not just a high quality graphing/scientific calculator! Of course, we do want our students to know the ins and outs of this calculator tool since it is the one used on the CAASPP (SBAC Exam). To get a teacher account, go to www.teacher.desmos.com To use the calculator, go to www.desmos.com And, it’s all FREE!!!

ren2Okay, a little background on my journey. This is my second year playing with this online application. I was exploring it last year and used it here and there with what I could find online to supplement lessons in my classroom. I did not learn how to create my own activities. I found it extremely limiting but wanted more because I saw the potential of such a program. This year, I went to my second training at the annual ETC Conference in Stanislaus. I took the wrong class because it was meant for 5th grade and I teach high school. However, I did gain lots by getting resources to libraries created by other educators for Desmos! I was excited about that. Still, it did not satiate my need to create my own activities. Finally, I went to another training that same day that was meant for high school or intermediate level. Once the instructor directed us that way, I continued. He did not give time for going beyond but I dived in and continued and played with all the tools till I finally understood what I needed in order to start creating. I created my first activity and I was so excited to bring it back to my classroom.

Ren1I went back to my classroom and I implemented lesson after lesson ranging from basic warm-up activities to two days in-depth analysis that had my students creating, modeling, and analyzing all in the program. Students were highly engaged, even the ones that try to get away with not doing work. Browse through the teacher page and tools and you will find many interactive, fun, and enriching activities for your students that are common core aligned.

I came across not just an application, it became a pedagogy. This is a dynamic resource that we can utilize to meet the needs of our students from many different backgrounds. The pictures below are my students’ answers and work. I have students with special needs and students who are newcomers to the USA as well. It is amazing to see the progress they have achieved this year just by reading their reflections.  Take a chance and take that leap. Discover. Ignite that fire in your students that captures their minds and makes them want to learn again. Do something different. I teach high school math but you can make anything yours, you just have to put in time and love.

Here are some screenshots of what my students worked on from my teacher dashboard. I anonymized everyone so they are all famous mathematicians for the day! 😊

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.