Wednesday, August 8, 2018


Tech Tools for Teaching

Got Technology? 

Can technology help to support your students through personalized learning, visual representations, digital tools, and online activities to support making connections and explaining their thinking?

A meta-analysis of the effect of technology on mathematics achievement showed statistically significant gains across the K-12 classroom (Slavin & Chung, 2013). Students who reported their teachers used computers frequently as a way to demonstrate new topics had higher levels of math achievement (House, 2011). 

Mathematics knowledge was also positively related to the use of multimedia strategies for elementary students (Weiss, Kramarski, & Tails, 2006). These findings suggest the role of technology does make a significant impact in students’ academic achievement in mathematics. 

Moreover the findings suggest the use of technology should not be limited to one instructional approach or methodology. Teachers should vary how they use technology from showing a video clip of a math related concept, to providing practice of mathematics facts and concepts through technology tools and resources.

As a technology advocate, teacher educator, and mother, I want my students and children to know how technology can support learning and instruction.  Dr. Ruben Peuntedura, coined the SAMR model as a way to articulate the level of technology integration across a continuum.  SAMR is an acronym for substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition. 

This framework is important to consider when integrating technology, in terms of the level of cognitive demand.  However teachers must also consider the function of technology when designing instruction.  Will technology be used to: assess, present, display, demonstration, create or gamify learning?  

If students are working on a project-based learning task, then digital tools that support students in the creation phase of their project might be useful to consider, whereas teachers who are explaining a concept might need virtual manipulatives to help students construct a model.   

As such I have created a classification of technology tools in relation to mathematics instruction.  Have fun, take a look and share your teaching ideas and technology tools with me.
Click Here for the Google Sheet 

Digital Assessment Tools: understand your learners and what they know, need to know or have learned. 

Blended Learning: personalized and provide additional support or challenge using a blended learning program. 

Calculation Tools:  calculating data and displaying information with pictoral and symbolic representations. 

Creation Tools: express ideas and show what they know via multimedia and video recording. 

Collaboration Tools:  students share ideas, resources and work collaboratively on different devices at the same time. 

Construction Tools:  create a mathematical model using either real world images or virtual pieces. 

Connectivity Tools: share  ideas and/or products of learning, with other people in a virtual space. 

Gamify:  ask questions and provide immediate feedback. 

Math Tasks: Rigorous math tasks that allow students to problem solve and think deeply about a concept. 

Presentation: share ideas in a presentation format. 

Productivity: support you and your students in organizing ideas for self-regulation. 

Video: used to demonstrate a concept or express a related math idea.

Got technology tools, tips, ideas or just want to share an idea? Please leave a comment below, and join our discussion on Facebook

Monday, July 23, 2018


Math Around the World

The idea of bringing the outside world of mathematics into a 20 x 40 square foot space to 30 squirrelly kiddos may seem like a daunting task and certainly it is.  But we know that math becomes so much more meaningful when it is fascinating, fun and related to students' lives or at least the world they want to explore. Part of the excitement of learning (at least when you're a kid) can be situated in what is referred to as the novelty effect.  Essentially there is greater enthusiasm to do something if it is something you have never done before.  

Given that I have been to Disney World several times, I might be  excited to go if the average attendance was not 56,000 a day.  Kids on the other hand are naturally curious and most certainly want to explore the world, but that is not entirely possible given a fifty minute math block (especially if the wait time is 50 minutes per ride at Disney).  Are you seeing the math connections?  

So let's explore how you can bring the real-world of math into your student lives without having to leave your school.  

Get Going on a Google Tour: 
If you like Google Earth, then you will love Google Tours.  This web-based tool allows you to connect places in the world into your students lives digitally.  Just select the places you want to go and Google Tours will bring you there.  Rather than discussing how the Giza Pyramids represent tetrahedron (triangular pyramid) take your students there (virtually) and have them identify the faces, edges and vertex corner.  

Here is a simple tour I created for students to identify shapes and learn more about the world: Shapes All Around Us

Make it Matter: Student Created Tour

Now that your students are excited about the idea of travel let them create their own Google Tour.  I created this graphic organizer to support students in organizing their own Google Tour.   By having students record their thinking prior to creating a tour you will save yourself and your students time as they already have a set plan for where they want to go!

Students can estimate the distance between their school and the location of their destination, make an illustration and record interesting math facts about the place they would like to visit using Wikipedia.  

This quick and interactive lesson hits lots of math standards in the context of real-life.  Students in grades 4-7 must compute with accuracy and fluency multi-digit numbers using addition and subtraction and what an exciting way to come into context with large numbers than by traveling.

Watch this video to learn how to get started with Google Tours. 

Start your school year with a recorded tour of your students summer vacation.  Then have them estimate and calculate the distance by using Google Maps.  
Want to extend this activity even more,  have your students work with a budget and create a family vacation for one of their destinations.  Your students can use sites like Travelocity or CheapTickets to find, compare and determine the best way to travel.  If they take the direct flight at $1600 to Bangkok, Thailand then they'll have a smaller budget to find a place to stay and may not enjoy the  over the water bungalow. 

Once your students have experienced the magic with Tour Builder, oh the places they will go.  This tool can be used across the curriculum for a literature study to explore a character's journey in greater depth, when studying languages to learn more about the culture and places in a region, and of course in history to relive the journey that real people made. 

Want to learn more about making real-life connections with math and earn University credit? Consider taking a course  and learn how to design math lessons that are rooted in the lives and interests of your students. 

Please comment below with your ideas for using Google Tours.  


Wednesday, January 31, 2018


Do Multiple Ways Matter: Using Tech to Make the Connection

Let's be clear counting in small quantities is a skill most kids do naturally without much prompting or coaching needed, in fact the region of the brain we use for counting includes the same portion of the brain that controls our fingers. Research suggests this may be attributed to the fact that our ancestors first experience with numbers involved the fingers (Devlin, 2000).  However counting and calculations that go beyond our friendly finger tips are likely to result in errors. 

When it comes to calculations students need strategies and not just one.  Research suggests students will most likely use a particular strategy that they find to be a more efficient solution for a particular type of problem (Sieger & Jenkinds, 1989). Take for example the problem 6 x 42 . Students who have proficiency with breaking apart numbers can determine they will need to calculate 6 X 40 (240) and 6 X 2 (12) and mentally calculate the total of 252, but when these numbers become much larger 656 X 3245 the standard algorithm may be more efficient. 

Common core mathematics shifts the focus from learning one-way and one-algorithm to understanding the underlying principles of a concept and applying multiple algorithms.   This approach certainly lends itself to going deeper with math through multiple representations and ways of showing what you know.   

The idea that students don't begin with the end in mind but begin with understanding and developing concepts is at the heart of the common core. 

This shift in standards does not guarantee a shift in learning, this will only happen when teachers change the way they teach and curriculum evolves from focusing on some learners, to all learners in the classroom.  From gifted and talented to students with special needs and English language learners, our approach and modes of instruction need to be flexible and supportive of our classroom population.  Students need a variety of pedagogical approaches from number talks that support discussions of strategies and mental calculations, to manipulatives that allow students to construct models and make meaning of concepts.  

So when parents ask, "Why can't they just memorize their multiplication facts"  we can assure them that memorization does not promote understanding and automaticity will develop with practice.  Elementary teachers should begin introducing concepts by building on what children already know and albeit this may be intuitive, it can lead to a deeper understanding of the concepts.  

Rooting math in the lives of the students we teach can support building conceptual understanding as well as transfer the learning of math  (number words, symbols and quantities) into their informal learning experiences such as the park, playing games and with friends.  Take for example the idea of using arrays to introduce the concept of multiplication.  Arrays are all around students but this knowledge needs to be brought forward during instruction and through practice.  It's not enough just to talk about where you might see arrays kids also need to  construct , discover, apply and identify. We should understand that what works for one kind of learner might not work for another.  Woodward and Baxter found that students with disabilites in math tend to make significantly less growth in discussion-oriented classes (1997) than traditional ones.  

Technology can be a great mediator to support, and challenge students with open ended tasks and flexibility.  It can also be useful to move from the abstract to the real-life connection.  
Available as a Google Slide here

Repeated addition is the knowledge students can start with to build an understanding of multiplication, but some students in your class might not have developed automaticity of their addition facts.  Working with arrays that are highly contextualized and not just on a piece of graph paper can provide practice in addition while also introducing the concept of multiplication.  In this video a second-grader works on a Google Slide presentation his teacher made to drag and drop cars into a parking lot.  


If our ancestors first counting tool was their fingers then digital devices might be consider the cultural tools for our students today.  

 Using this digital lesson teachers can scaffold instruction and allow students to work at their own pace.  While some students might work with benchmark numbers 2's, 5's, and 10's to construct an array, students who understand the concept of multiplication and have strong number sense in this area can move to more complex equations.  

Are you using technology to support students conceptual understanding in your math class? Share your ideas here and join the conversation on our Facebook Group


Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Connecting Students Lives to Math Across the Curriculum

The excitement of school vacation doesn't end just because students have return to school.  From family trips to visiting relatives, students are filled with life experiences percolating in their mind. This excitement builds when they finally see their classmates and teacher with whom they want to share these experiences with.

Have you thought about ways you might build on student excitement and refocus their energy? Creating learning activities that build on life experiences and reinforces skills might be necessary before moving forward with new skills and standards.

Take a second grade class that has been working on writing addition and subtraction equations, they can practice this skill in the context of surveying classmates about activities they engaged in over winter break. 

While students are collecting data they also have an opportunity to share with their friends about their experiences. They can use this data to write addition and subtraction equations and create a word problem for other classmates to solve. As a whole class you can record all student responses into a larger graph for greater values. This activity reinforces test prep questions that often appear on the smarter balance where students need to read graphs and interpret information. You can bridge this activity across the curriculum by having students write a personal narrative, letter to a friend, thank you letter, or journal entry about one activity they engaged in over break. Here is the activity and remediation strategies for Graphing Winter Activities.

 As this activity was created using word it can be easily adapted for spring break or summer vacation. Furthermore teachers might use this with older kids to create a bigger sample size and collect data outside of their classroom. Rather than having pre-selected activities, older kids can create their own responses for the survey so that results represent multiple data sets.

 What strategies are you using to build on life experiences and share students interests in your classroom?

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