Mathematics is one subject discipline that has been slow to integrate technology into teaching. As a mathematics college teacher that completely understands the infinite resource the internet provides, I can suggest several reasons.
Too much time is taken in information transfer using the traditional chalk on blackboard/students copy into notebooks. To eliminate this step, our plan was to convert binders full of ‘lecture notes’ into Word files. The e-notes would provide scaffolding for teaching – questions typed with plenty of space for students to formulate solutions. E-notes were posted to the learning management system (LMS) before lectures so students could download and bring to class. Teachers initially used overheads, the document camera, and finally tablet PC’s to ink in solutions. Sounds like a simple enough plan, however, typing mathematics formulation is not only tedious, but time consuming as well.
Initially, we used the insert tab and then symbol available in Word. If you haven’t tried it, I challenge you to type ‘one-third times one-third equals one-ninth’. Each step requires you to ‘insert-symbol-⅓-insert-close’. After pages of typing mathematics formulations, you can understand the difficulty. Some typing issues can be minimized by adopting an online textbook, which is projected to the screen for all to view. This still required students to write down questions (time wasted). Also, if you not a math teacher that ‘teaches to the book’, and have tried for years to find an applied calculus textbook that teaches without flywheels, gears, football fields, and bullets, you can understand the difficulty.
It made sense to purchase software –
our choice was MathType (30 day trial http://www.dessci.com/en/products/mathtype/trial.asp)
We find using MathType makes our notes look more professional, the equations are properly formatted, and can be quickly altered and re-saved for multiple use of the same form.
For teaching math, demonstration of problem solution must occur in a stepwise fashion. It is not possible to type solutions while teaching – students would quickly become disinterested. Our solution was to purchase HP tablet PC’s for the math faculty. E-notes are loaded into the Microsoft Journal feature of the tablet, and using the pen (stylus), solutions can be hand-written and projected. With an eraser on the end of the stylus, and highlighters/different pen colours and thicknesses just a click away, teaching mathematics with this technology has taken a large step forward. As mentioned, I rely heavily on the internet to provide real-life examples of mathematical concepts we are working through. The use of learning objects, applets, Web Quests and articles that demonstrate the importance of math in daily living are a necessary component of my lectures. The problem with Journal is that you can’t embed a URL your notes and be able to directly link to a website. We did come up with a solution, but that will have to wait for another post.
I would like to share of few of my literally thousands of websites (in all disciplines) that I have found. I intend to find a separate place on this blog to categorize them and begin posting. Please let me know if you think that would be of interest. Here are three favorites to start:
Boring math given value: http://www.freerice.com/category
This site is run by the United Nations World Food Program. For every correct answer, 10 grains of rice are donated to end world hunger – a bowl of rice is 10 correct answers. I use this site as part of my introductory lecture in college developmental mathematics classes. Instead of asking students to review their multiplication tables, why not ask them to help a child in need by gathering as many bowls of rice possible in a given time period?
The one that started it all: http://www.calculus-help.com/tutorials
While thinking about the uncomprehending faces of students trying to understand the calculus concept of limits, I searched the internet for a some help. Luckily, I happened upon the Calculus Phobe. After watching their simple, funny, animated videos, even I understood better. Five years ago, this was the one that started it all. I showed a segment in class and gave students the link – they watched them all. Anecdotally, I noted that students could picture the concept, their questioning changed, they recommended the videos to other students, and I felt their marks reflected a higher level of understanding. That sent me on my quest – some people collect stamps, I collect learning objects.
Geometry tailored to every need: http://www.mathopenref.com/
First semester students have a range of math experiences – especially in geometry. Some have had it drilled into them since grade 4, others did not learn the terminology in English, and some may not have used it in 30-40 years. In class, students are given a note framework to guide their understanding and directed to the open reference link. Some just remind themselves – a quick ‘play’ with the applets is enough. Others use the applets and the definitions to tie meaning to their own language. For those that need a more extensive refresher, they play with the applets, read the definitions and practice the quizzes. Something for everyone…