One of the first word that comes to mind is geek.
Geeks love technology but that doesn’t mean that geeks love math.
As a mathematics teacher for 3 years and a current GMAT instructor, I know too well the challenges of using technology in teaching math to students of any age.
Here are 2 important challenges when using technology in the math classroom and why tech geeks don’t necessary love math.
1. Fact or fiction?: The greatest advantage of using technology in the math classroom is learning to apply it in real-life situations and to be able to interpret the answer.
Math teachers often use PowerPoint presentations and graphing calculators (common brands being Texas Instruments and Hewlett-Packard) as useful tools to have a better understanding of movement problems in Calculus. The use of PowerPoint presentations and graphic calculators enriches the teaching-learning process of topics from Calculus (i.e. effects on the graph of exponential and logarithmic functions). Most teachers reveal that even though the use of these resources requires extra class prep time, there are important time savings during class and presentations are more organized.
The main disadvantage of using technology in the math teaching-learning process is that students seem to get caught in the mechanical part to get the results and not on the interpretation of the results. This means that students don’t learn to apply math to real-life situations and are not able to interpret the answer.
Testimonial of a high school level calculus teacher from Santa Catarina, Mexico:
They know how to find the derivative for the cost function, and they might remember that it’s called the marginal cost, and they could actually get the derivative using any software and even graph it, but they might not know that actually evaluating a value on the derivative represents the cost for an additional unit to be produced.
Testimonial of a university level algebra teacher from Guangzhou, China:
Students seem to get caught on the mechanical process and do not focus on going beyond what is explained to them. An example is that Algebra students are eager to plug numbers into any variable but fail to understand what is a fixed cost, or that the there is no such thing as income of -$10, among other examples. Students seem to get caught on the process and forget that interpreting the results is critical so that they can reach a proper decision.
2. Math teachers may not have the resources or knowledge to make efficient use of technology in the classroom.
Math teachers are smart, right?
Having great math skills does not equate having great tech skills.
This means that techies trying to approach a problem with a computer cannot receive help from their paper and pencil based teacher.
There is a strong need that schools use available funds to promote the use of educational technology in the classroom, particularly the full support of professional development of teachers in teaching and research to get the most out of the current resources.
Most current teacher technology training is basic and not continuous. The teacher’s workload is extensive so that technology training appears more like a burden than a benefit.
In order for tech geeks to start loving math, we need more prepared teachers that are not only tech savvy but that also are able to make the connection between the classroom and real-life situations.