Sunday, May 13, 2018

Enhancing Math Skills Through Assistive Technology

What is one of the most popular and successful brands in today's society? Apple some would say, or Sony, Samsung, Google, and other companies that create computers, tablets, and smartphones. If these are the most popular brands in today's society, then why aren't we using them in the classroom?

Mathematics is all around us, whether we are solving equations in the classroom, estimating our grocery bill, measuring our distance of travel, or checking the time. Without math, our daily lives would be a challenge, and for some without proficient math skills their daily life is a challenge. The importance of mathematics in early childhood, and as an adult cannot be stressed enough. As suggested, basic math skills can determine or influence three components: equality between each human, opportunity for advancement in later years following the understanding of arithmetic, and success as adult with not only money management but day to day living (Loveless 2003). In order to enhance the math skills of students, we must first caption their attention of the subject. With today's evolving and digitally dependent society, the integration of virtual mathematics must be implemented.

In order to implement virtual mathematics while meeting the needs of all students and presenting curriculum objectives, a reliable resource would need to be available. For example, based on the study conducted on 1,274 1st- and 2nd-graders, Rosas et al. (2003) found a positive effect of educational games on the motivation of students (Kim & Chang 2010). With the ability to engage students in mathematics through assistive technology, a platform for students to learn and practice their math would be essential.

Prodigy is a online platform that allows students to do everything discussed above. Prodigy is an educational site for students, similar to the concept of Pokemon, but with mathematics. Students are able to create an avatar and explore through different worlds while competing against their classmates and more to advance through different levels. The foundation of this program is simply math, which is required during each battle in order to advance to a new level. While exploring through different worlds, students are provided with virtual manipulative (counters, hundreds blocks, fraction strips, and more) on the screen. By completing mathematical procedures on line there is a decrease in the child's cognitive load which can preserve underlying math concepts ( Watts, C. M., et al., 2016).

The following video gives you a tutorial of prodigy and how a teacher can utilize this resource in the classroom. As shown, the teacher determines the student grade level and what concept(s) that student will be working on. In a class of 25, you can have all students working on different grade levels and concepts based on their abilities. There is a scoreboard to track the "leaders" which includes all students, regardless of grade level, and does not identify their grade level so it appears everyone is working on the same tasks.

-Can modify work to student abilities
-Virtual manipulative (counters, fraction strip, etc)
-Tutorials/help videos for students
-Tracks student progress
-Multiple grades and strands/concepts
-Can set assignments
-Is engaging

-Only goes up to grade 8
-Does not have every Provinces curriculum (Ontario and Common Core)
-Requires teacher to consistently update assignments and tasks

Loveless, T. (2003) Trends in Math: The Importance of Basic Skills. The Brookings Review, 21.4, (40-43)

Kim, S., & Chang, M. (2010). Computer Games for the Math Achievement of Diverse Students. Educational Technology & Society, 13 (3), 224–232.

Watts, C. M., Moyer-Packenham, P. S., Tucker, S. I., Bullock, E. P., Shumway, J. F., Westenskow, A., Boyer-Thurgood, J., Anderson- Pence, K., Mahamane, S., & Jordan, K. (2016). An examination of children’s learning progression shifts while using touch screen virtual manipulative mathematics apps. Computers in Human Behavior, 64, 814-828.

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