“What do you do?”
“I’m a high school math teacher!”
“Oh…I was never good at math. I never use any of the things I learned in real life anyway.”
This short dialogue has been had too many times to count. I have titled this blog post “For the Love of Mathematics” because I believe utilizing technology in purposeful ways will empower students to explore the mathematics around them and lead to deeper understanding of mathematical concepts and aid students in building connections between different fields of mathematics (algebra and geometry, for example).
Take a moment and think back to any of the math classes you completed. Close your eyes. Visualize the classroom set up. Where was your teacher most typically stationed? What were the normal operating procedures of the class? What did a typical day entail?
While our experiences may not be identical, I have to believe we experienced some of the same routines. I can see the rows of desks in every classroom. I can see my teacher at the front of the room, chalk or dry erase marker in hand, recording one example after another with very little dialogue with his students. Now, don’t get me wrong, this system worked for me. I was able to be “trained” to learn in such an environment. In fact, two of these educators impacted my decision to teach math. However, I do not believe that I was taught in the most effective, or most rigorous environment.
My experiences as a learner have influenced my goals as an educator. While direct instruction may still be part of my lessons, students must be talking about the mathematics using the correct vocabulary. They are praised for stopping me mid-sentence to ask, “Why?” or “Why does it work that way? Prove it to me.” Additionally, students are encouraged to form their own hypotheses after observing patterns or common results.
Enter technology. The strategies I have used to empower students to investigate math have been made more effective by websites and interactive whiteboard apps, such as Desmos and Educreations, as well as my Twitter page and Canvas course. Learning has been extended beyond the four walls of my classroom and is accessible to students anywhere they have WiFi. This semester, my Canvas class has been transformed from a “file dumping” ground to a structured space for students to take part in investigations, complete formative assessments (through quizzes and various uses of Google Docs), and access course resources.
One of my favorite changes to my Canvas class has been the use and organization of my course modules. Each module corresponds to one unit of study and contains multiple sections (typically content pages), one for each major objective taught. Then, various engagements are provided for students. For instance, students may access: an outside URL, such as a Desmos graphing investigation; a content page that reinforces the main points of the lesson; or videos providing additional examples for students to reference. My instructional videos are created using the Educreations app, and these videos are also posted on my Twitter page.
Above Left: The new structure of my modules with text headers and indentation used to make navigation more simple. Above Right: Sample Desmos graphing investigation. This investigation will be used as an introduction to our next unit of study.
Below Left: Screenshot of an Algebra 1 content page. Graphic created on Canva – outlines the main ideas presented in our introductory lesson. Below Right: Screenshot of an Algebra 2 content page with additional resources for students, such as instructional videos and unit documents.
The technology allows the learning process to be scaffolded in such a way that students can progress at a more individualized pace, and it also provides students with access to a variety of resources.
Today’s blog post comes from Ms. Lauren Hannah. Lauren is in her third year teaching at Pike High School. She is a math enthusiast and is also a lover of singing, baking, cake decorating, and the Butler Bulldogs. Follow her on Twitter @mathteachZ201.