By Michael Hilkemeijer
ICT is helping both students and teachers to provide a better visual and dynamic representation of abstract ideas. However, it can provide effective support if its use is ‘transparent’ in the process of learning. This is enhanced when teachers are confident about their ICT capabilities and their mathematical abilities.
Learning how to integrate ICT in teaching maths is important as the nature of technology itself provides support for schools. Computers can store and retrieve huge quantities of information and it allows the information to be presented accurately and more attractively.
Integrating ICT in maths lessons also facilitates the inclusion of all students in the learning of mathematical concepts as technology presents the information in a variety of ways according to the size of the audience and the special needs of particular individuals.
Why are effective math-technology integration strategies so important for students?
There are significant links between numeracy and ICT capability development. Higher-order thinking skills and concepts are used to combine knowledge of and techniques in numbers and in ICT capability in order to solve even quite simple number problems.
Additionally, the automatic features of ICT have had fundamental effects on the value of written algorithms for calculation.
ICT capability in the field of number involves much more than just using the ICT techniques that the students need to perform number operations and produce graphs. Higher order thinking skills are also needed to identify when ICT is the most effective method of achieving a goal and which ICT tools will enable them to create a solution to the problem.
For students, this type of decision requires more than just ICT knowledge. They also need to have knowledge of mathematical concepts and processes, metacognitive knowledge of ones’ own speed and accuracy with numeric techniques and routines.
Top ICT strategies for teaching math
Explicit skills teaching
One key area for students and teachers is their developing understanding of the scope and range of math software. We are talking about transparent technology in math such as word processors, spreadsheets, databases and even drawing and painting programs. It is important for them to know what is possible and the swiftly evolving nature of software means that there is no answer that is always the same.
It is also imperative that you ensure that you make explicit links between the related knowledge, skills and understanding. For example, graphics software may provide opportunities for you to do this and so you can make explicit links knowledge, skills and understanding in mathematics.
In each program that you choose to integrate into the math curriculum you will need to explicitly teach specific skills. Then provide explicit instruction for you to lay the best foundation for the activities to come.
This is a key component of both ICT capability and mathematics. It is crucial, therefore, that conceptual understanding is achieved for both areas of learning.
There are key concepts that underpin knowledge of ICT techniques and processes and successful schools have paid close attention to these to ensure that they are developed in a suitably wide range of applications and problem situations.
An effective strategy to use would be to focus on the concepts behind the ICT and mathematical skills. This can be achieved by using whole-class teaching to discuss examples and non-examples of a concept, both with and without ICT. This will enable you to highlight the important features of the concept.
It will be important for you to challenge any naïve ideas about handling particular ICT tools both in whole-class teaching and when monitoring the progress of individuals. For example, when students type calculations in a spreadsheet using values directly rather than formulae containing cell references, you could change the values of cells, and point out the incorrect result from the calculation based on the previous values.
Develop questions that exploit both learning opportunities.
It is important in your planning for technology integration in the classroom that you develop questions which exploit the ICT learning opportunities alongside the mathematical learning opportunities.
For example, here are two ways to look at this type of questioning. Instead of just asking the question “do most children walk to school? How do we know?” you could ask, “which graph shows the information best?”. Or instead of asking “how many more children walk to school than come by car?” you could ask “what did we have to do after entering each piece of information?”
By doing it this way, the ICT integration in the classroom supports the subject and the subject supports very important conceptual developments in ICT capability.
Giving students time reflect on their learning is just as important as it for them to do this on their math learning. It will be important to encourage them to ask:
- What worked?
- What didn’t work?
- Did I learn a new approach?
- What could I have done differently?
- Did someone share something I had never thought of before?
It is significant that you encourage critical thinking and show the value of working together with others to solve a problem.
Asking students to write a reflective report about the approach that they used can also be used by to determine what the child has done and what the computer has done. These reflective reports can be used as the basis for discussions or more comprehensive reflective commentaries on the approaches they used.