By Michael Hilkemeijer
The use of ICT in Primary maths provides great support for the teaching and learning in mathematics. However, it can only really provide effective support where its use is ‘transparent’. This is the ultimate aim of developing student ICT capability and in this course, we will investigate and examine how to use ICT in the math classroom where it helps teachers demonstrate and explain mathematical ideas along with helping students develop their mathematical knowledge, skills and understanding.
ICT provides teachers with opportunities to capitalise on the idea that it can help students visualise mathematical ideas and concepts. It can provide teachers and students with resources to help them concentrate on the learning objectives within the National Curriculum and not get bogged down with other issues. Finally, even though there are technology in maths education that enables students to review and consolidate mathematical skills such as ‘drill and practice’ programs, these are not the focus of this course as they do not fully develop ICT capability.
The Relationship between Numeracy and ICT Capability
What is the connection between ICT capability and numeracy? To answer this question we need to examine it from two points of interest. The Australian Curriculum as an example encourages the use of ICT in the mathematics learning area and states that ICT capability is developed when students “investigate, create and communicate mathematical ideas and concepts using fast, automated, interactive and multimodal technologies” (Australian Curriculum, 2021). It highlights specific software such as spreadsheets where ICT capability can be used for calculations, collecting data, drawing graphs, analysing, and interpreting data.
We must also understand that ICT capability in the field of numbers involves much more than merely using ICT techniques and skills that students need to perform number operations and produce graphs. Developing student ICT capability in primary maths involves the higher order thinking skills needed to when ICT is the most effective way of achieving a goal and which ICT tools are appropriate to the task.
It would be significant for you to remember that this decision involves more than just ICT knowledge. What it does involve is the knowledge of mathematical concepts and processes, and metacognitive knowledge (knowing that you know) of one’s own speed and accuracy with numeric techniques and routines.
For example, “if we ask children to find the total cost of 68 pens at 20 cents each they have to decide on the type of calculation to do, and choose whether to estimate the answer, to calculate it exactly using mental methods, to calculate it exactly using pen and paper, to use a simple calculator, or to use a spreadsheet. Their choice will depend on their level of ICT capability and numeracy” (Kennewell, Parkinson, & Tanner, 2000, p. 109). It would also depend on the affordances of the setting such as the ICT tools available, the help that they get from others and of course, your aims and learning objectives of the activity itself.
In emphasising this, it is easy to see how higher order thinking skills and concepts are used to combine knowledge of and techniques in number and in ICT in order in order to solve even quite simple problems.
The Qualities of Mathematics teacher with TPACK
This course aims at giving you the expertise you need in order to develop a strong background in TPACK. A strong background will allow you to offer students a considerable advantage in the learning of mathematics. It will provide you with the ability to imagine the potential for mathematics/numeracy learning with technology.
As someone who successfully integrates ICT in Primary Maths, it would mean that:
- You would have a relative openness to experimentation with the ever-evolving technological tools available to you.
- You would strive to be consistently ‘on-task’ for the mathematical topic or content being taught.
- You would approach your mathematics instruction with clear and systematic pedagogical strategies in mind.
- You would try to make periodic connections for your students as to “why” a particular technology is useful for instructing a particular mathematics topic.
- You would characteristically embrace the administrative capabilities of technology to help guide your mathematics instruction using student assessment data such as criterion referenced tests.
- You would also do your best to be a caring teacher who is comfortable and optimistic for change.
How to develop an integrated approach to teaching with ICT in the Maths Curriculum?
If you are to develop an integrated approach to teaching with ICT effectively in the mathematics key learning area rather than add it on as an extra activity, then it is important that you have a good understanding of the ICT concepts and their relation to the maths curriculum.
For each classroom activity, clear objectives need to be present and if you plan to develop student ICT capability prior to using ICT in maths learning, then the students can focus on the specific maths objectives. It would be difficult for you to introduce spreadsheets without involving number activity.
You also need to keep in mind that there is a close relationship between ICT capability and the knowledge, skills and understanding in the maths subject area in addition to others in the curriculum. So it would not be helpful to develop ICT capability and maths learning in isolation.
Studies have indicated in the past that the learning of and with ICT involved a shift of focus between the ICT objectives and the learning objectives. Additionally, there may be a conflict between these two objectives when assessing, but will touch on this later on. However, this is effected through planned teacher interventions.
With the strategies and approaches that you will learn in this course, you will be able to build on your own ICT capability as a primary teacher and foster these strategies that emphasise higher order thinking skills and provide an effective foundation for the challenge of a sometimes disjointed secondary curriculum.
How to best use ICT in Maths
When using ICT in maths primary, there are many opportunities to choose from. However, the best option is to ensure that your students control the technology and that they make the decisions thus developing their higher order thinking skills.
Yes. There is a technology that teaches maths and these are known as integrated learning systems or are commonly known as subject-specific software. They defeat the purpose of understanding how to integrate ICT in teaching maths.
The advantages of using ICT in maths should be:
- It enhances student learning of maths;
- It motivates them to learn maths;
- It develops student ICT capability;
- It promotes higher order thinking skills.
The right ICT tools can therefore, provide a conceptual construction kit that can transform students’ mathematical knowledge and practices in your curriculum. When looking at the Australian Curriculum, for example, there are many opportunities to embed ICT into the curriculum and to develop ICT capability.
As a result, we focus on these opportunities in our advanced online professional development for primary teachers that helps them understand how to integrate ICT in teaching maths. It encourages a whole school level approach to integrate ICT in primary maths.
Another key aspect that you need to be aware of when using ICT in maths primary is that it also involves a shift in teaching approaches. Integrating ICT into meaningful subject-related learning activities is never straightforward. Various pedagogical approaches need to be adopted in order for students to not only develop ICT capability transparently alongside maths learning but to also understand that when they are using technology in maths that they view it as a tool.
Research has clearly shown how technology can change the nature of using ICT in maths primary education but it will only be through complex and continuous online professional development for teachers that be key to teachers successfully integrating ICT in primary maths.
5 Great ICT tools for Teaching Mathematics
The use of ICT tools in STEM activities in the classroom plays a significant role. There is one thing that the following tools all have in common.
They have the potential to develop student ICT capability provided that effective teaching strategies with technology are used.
There is one particular type of software which I will not discuss as it does not allow for the development of ICT capability.
Integrated Learning Systems (ILS) such as drill and practice software DOES NOT develop student ICT capability and ICT literacy.
And this should be the aim of all mathematics software in Primary Mathematics.
Great ICT tools for teaching Mathematics
- Databases – the handling of data is a very important part of a mathematics lesson. It involves analysing information collected by the students themselves during a hands-on, practical activity. This can be done with real and relevant data making it an authentic learning experience.
- Spreadsheets – these are designed to help you work with numbers and students can use to do the same too. They can be set up as a number of machines that can repeat calculation processes quickly and easily. They can be used to help solve problems where repeating calculations can help find the answer.
- Interactive whiteboards with the aid of digital projectors – the combination of these two with the addition of the computer itself will allow us to teach mathematics using whole-class teaching methods. It can also be used to help you to demonstrate to students various techniques that they need to use during the maths lesson such as spreadsheet skills.
- Programmable toys – robotic toys can be used as a catalyst for problem-solving from early childhood to primary education.
- Desktop publishing software – this is a great idea for when investigating and designing objects on the screen. They are very useful for studying 2-dimensional objects as they allow you to create simple shapes quickly and easily. Some have built-in functions that allow students to rotate and reflect these shapes once created.
ICT offers powerful support for teaching numeracy and mathematics. It can be where the teacher uses ICT alone or when students use it to gain the benefits from its features such as allowing them to develop ICT capability.
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The Importance of using ICT tools when Teaching Mathematics
Technology is not only inclusive in that it can present information in a variety of ways, but also makes creating your own attractive, stimulating resources a relatively straightforward task.
ICT has a lot to offer students as research shows that with computer-based activities students are more likely to experiment and take risks than without ICT.
Mathematical concepts and logic lie at the heart of the computer's function. So they work perfectly well together. However, it is vitally important that the child is in control of the technology at all times and that it involves high-level decision-making and challenges them intellectually. For this reason, you will only find software suitable for mathematics teaching that is content-free.
The Australian Curriculum Mathematics learning area has also stressed the importance of using ICT tools for teaching mathematics.
As such, the development of ICT capability is practically conducted alongside numeracy learning as stated in the below statement:
"In the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics, students develop ICT capability when they investigate, create, and communicate mathematical ideas and concepts using fast, automated, interactive and multimodal technologies. They use their ICT capability to perform calculations; draw graphs; collect, manage, analyse, and interpret data; share and exchange information and ideas, and investigate and model concepts and relationships.
Digital technologies, such as spreadsheets, dynamic geometry software, and computer algebra software, can engage students and promote understanding of key concepts."
Higher-order Thinking Skills and ICT
Both number techniques and ICT techniques develop higher-order thinking skills when technology tools are used correctly when teaching mathematics.
In terms of ICT capability, when mixed with number techniques involves more than the ICT techniques needed to perform number operations and produce graphs.
ICT capability development in mathematics lessons also involves higher-order thinking skills to identify when ICT is the most effective way of achieving a goal and which ICT tools used in the classroom are appropriate to the task.
Using technology to teach maths can be beneficial to both students and teachers, but only if used correctly. The benefits of technology in education can only be harvested and unlocked in the classroom if teachers are trained with ICT teaching strategies that will impact student learning.
The Importance of ICT in Maths
The ultimate aim in developing student ICT capability is to make the ICT transparent. That is, the children become so focused on using ICT as a tool to achieve other outcomes that they hardly notice they are using technology itself.
This should be your ultimate aim as the primary teacher to enable the children to reach this stage and the best way to achieve this is in meaningful context-driven activities such as that in numeracy/mathematics. So I will show you how to integrate ICT in teaching maths using one of the ICT tools in mathematics mentioned earlier.
One of the first ICT tools for mathematics that comes to mind is the spreadsheet. Teaching with and about spreadsheets you in the following activities:
Selecting appropriate opportunities – this means finding activities in the learning area where spreadsheets can enhance, facilitate or extend children’s learning. An example of an opportunity could be exploring number patterns. Opportunities in the Australian Curriculum Mathematics learning area include the following:
Year 3 – ACMNA057, ACMSP069.
Year 4 – ACMNA076; ACMNA080.
Children can be introduced to spreadsheets through the functions they perform. It may be an idea to draw their attention to the formula determining the function and encourage them to experiment with modifying the formula.
You may also like make the link with calculators placing emphasis on a spreadsheet’s potential for supporting and facilitating calculation.
So there are many curriculum opportunities to think about and to imagine the potential for learning with a spreadsheet in a mathematical context.
Selecting the appropriate opportunities is a key element of your planning.
Planning the incorporation of spreadsheets into curriculum activities – here you must make sure of several considerations. However, in order to plan effectively it is essential that you establish a starting point for their ICT learning journey so that you can give them accurate directions that will enable them to plot a course.
You can set the children a small spreadsheet activity with a number of key ICT techniques that you think will be essential in completing the follow-up activity. That way you can determine what they know and plan to build on it. This is a key part in learning how to integrate ICT in teaching maths.
Once this has been accomplished, you then need to:
- Decide the educational purpose of the ICT activity – to develop ICT capability, to support numeracy learning or both? (I recommend ‘both’).
- Decide the activity provides the children with experiences of using ICT as a tool.
- Determine if there are opportunities to assess their ICT capabilities when using the spreadsheet functions.
Learning how to integrate ICT in teaching maths also involves planning for progression and this where what I said earlier comes in. By establishing their starting point, learning progression can occur both in classroom and throughout the school. So it is a good idea to discuss and plan the use of spreadsheets with your colleagues to share with them key data needed like the context in which spreadsheets were used, the ICT techniques each individual student learned or used and especially the curriculum goals linked to the activities.
While spreadsheets can be introduced to children in the early stages of primary education, their ICT capability development with spreadsheets is achieved in the later stages or when they are in Year 3, 4, 5, or 6. It is at this stage of learning that they can carry out complex calculations and processes such as analysis, interpretation and problem solving.
Using ICT tools for teaching mathematics is about developing student ICT capability in a meaningful context. However, you will need to understand what constitutes ICT capability and the best ICT teaching strategies for primary school teachers to achieve it in numeracy/mathematics lessons.
Thanks for learning how to integrate ICT in teaching maths. To learn more as this is just a snippet of what you will learn, consider joining my online workshop below today.