What are the benefits of teaching math using technology?

This is a guest blog post from Kristine Scharaldi, an education consultant and instructional coach with a specialization in the fields of educational technology, Mind-Brain-Education, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and 21st Century Skills/Global Education.

Continue reading to learn about the advantages of using technology in the math classroom.

Technology provides dynamic opportunities for instruction in math and STEM classrooms. We can enhance the learning process and make concepts come alive through engaging and interactive media. We may also offer additional supports to address the needs of all learners and create customized learning experiences. Here are some important ways that students can benefit when we incorporate technology with our math and STEM lesson instruction.

Teaching math using technology - Use Multimedia

Multimedia brings learning to life! We can bring videos, animations, interesting movies and other media into the learning process to help our students develop skills and understandings. And it can help to motivate and excite our students about their learning!

Mr. DeMaio, a third grade teacher in Union Beach, New Jersey, creates customized movies to help his students understand class topics such as multiplication tables and borrowing in subtraction. He hosts a YouTube channel with “edu-taining” lessons and music videos that feature teachers in the school and recurring favorite characters such as puppets Steven and Andy.

The movies are so enjoyable to watch that kids play them again and again and ask for more on different topics! Compared to prior school years, Mr. DeMaio has found that this multimedia approach to blended learning has led to better retention and increased student understanding of the concepts, even in math and STEM lessons.

We won’t all produce movies like Mr. DeMaio, but he is a good example of how we all have the ability to find and create great content to share with our students through digital tools, platforms, and apps.

Interactive Visualizations and Explorations

Making math (or STEM subjects) visual goes beyond student engagement; brain research indicates it to be integral to learning maths. Neuroscientists at Stanford University are studying how the brain thinks mathematically and evidence shows that visual pathways are involved even when working on symbolic number calculations. According to Jo Boaler and the team at Stanford Graduate School of Education’s youcubed, representing all mathematical concepts visually, and including visual activities at all grade levels, can greatly help students.

Technology provides additional opportunities for learners to see and interact with mathematical concepts. Students can explore and make discoveries with games, simulations and digital tools.

One excellent platform for teachers and students is the web-based graphing calculator, Desmos. The Desmos classroom activities page is a great starting point to engage students in playing with and testing mathematical ideas and also sharing and collaborating.

And, the new addition to Texthelp’s STEM offering, EquatIO mathspace, creates a digital whiteboard where students and teachers can combine math equations and formulas with Desmos graphs, geometrics shapes, manipulatives, and freehand drawings to encourage visual problem solving.

Screengrab of using Texthelp to solve a math question

Personalized math lessons using technology

Increased access to technology for math allows for a more customized learning experience. Because no two learners are exactly alike, technology can provide individual students with content and supports that are particularly helpful to their individual needs. Kids can view lessons, tutorials, screencasts, and other instructional media on their own device and at their own pace. So if one student is still confused on a topic, and another is ready for additional challenges, technology can enable each to take the appropriate next step.

A great example of how technology empowers learners is the phenomenon of Khan Academy. Sal Khan did not intend to build a non-profit educational organization when he started posting the recordings of his math lessons on YouTube (as he delightfully explains in his TED Talk). He was only trying to help tutor his cousins from afar and didn’t see any reason to set the videos to Private mode. From the feedback from his cousins, and then from other people from all over the world who found his videos, he realized how valuable this medium was and the importance of being able to choose, rewind, and control the lessons.

The Khan Academy platform has emerged from his work, giving learners personalized learning experiences in a number of ways. For example, users can take quizzes to see what concepts they have mastered and what they need more practice with. Or students that learn better through written text can access transcripts that accompany the instructional videos. Providing the ability to direct and control learning pathways is a powerful reason to include technology in our own math instruction.

Connect math concepts to the real world

Teachers can use technology to help students see how concepts they are learning in the math or STEM classroom can be applied to everyday life. Instead of giving her students a problem-solving worksheet, educator Jennie Magiera recorded a short video in the dairy aisle of the supermarket, posing the real-world problem of deciding what would be the best deal. She challenged her students to figure out what brand and size of cheese to buy based on the prices and promotions seen on the shelves. Recording videos of scenarios outside of the classroom such as this can be done easily with a smartphone and then shared on YouTube or the class website.

Integrating technology in the math classroom allows students to interact with people outside of the classroom to help broaden their understandings and perspectives about what they are studying. Teachers can set up live interactive video calls with experts on a wide variety of curricular topics using sites such as Skype in the Classroom and Nepris. One teacher on Nepris posted a request for industry experts to share ways they use math concepts in their daily work, and as a result students were able to virtually meet a playground designer who demonstrated how he uses measurement, multiplication, and more in his decision-making and planning.

Technology gives us the ability to expand and enrich our math lessons using technology. What ways has technology supported your students in learning math or STEM? Please share your comments!