Friday, September 4, 2015

What "this" means for Math Education???

It wasn't that long ago that Math was the subject that never changed.  We had our postulates, theorems, graphs, and our clear steps to solving equations.  The advent of the graphing calculator was about the biggest event in math education since, well, forever.  Sadly, even today some teachers still resist its use.

It seems now math is the subject in schools that doesn't stop changing.

The change may have coincided with the Common Core State Standards but that was not the push.  It started well before that but only is gaining traction in the last few years.  The change is causing educators to rethink how we teach, what we teach, the tools we use to teach and what students have the potential to do.  The change isn't just one thing but an onslaught of instructional opportunities.  An interesting piece of technology that came out a short while ago as improved to the point of being interesting is  Photo Math.
Photo Math
"Photo Math reads and solves mathematical problems by using the camera of your mobile device in real time. It makes math easy and simple by educating users how to solve math problems."  Not sure about the educating portion but it truly works.  Typed equations of almost any kind can be solved with all of their steps shown in a blink of an eye.  I tried it on a traditional Algebra 2 textbook.  It solved everything from multi-step equations to logarithms to systems of equations with 3 variables.  It solved it all.  So what does this mean for math education.  Are we to put our slide rulers away and just take a seat on the side?  Is our career in jeopardy?

The answer lies in math.  What is math truly about?  It's not about solving equations and multiplying correctly.  It is about patterns and logical reasoning.  This occurs outside everything everyone thinks is math.  It's about continuing the direction we are heading and making it stick.  Apps like Photo Math won't help solve an applied problem.  They won't help visually show why the best price point for a product is $8.57 according to a set of supply and demand equations.  They won't help analyze data or learn why higher mathematics is important to learn.

The easy solution is to ban the phone from the classroom or lock the iPad to only use a basic calculator upon entering the classroom.  The short sightedness of that is scary.  To ignore the opportunities to truly understand and enhance math through the plethora of available apps is to ignore an entire generation of students who are able to play and learn higher levels of mathematics than we dreamed possible before.  Not the math of algorithms.  The math of applications.

We live in a world where application is now easy.  Video, sound, photo are all made readily available by the same phone that makes a skill and drill problem useless.  We are entering a new playing field. It is time to take our skills-based DOK 1 and 2 style questions out of our summative assessments, place them as learning skills and formative assessments throughout a unit and focus on how to apply those same skills in a setting that means something to students.  People like Dan Meyer began the momentum several years ago and we started to listen.  Then others joined the game like Jo Boaler who decided to not just focus on tasks but on how we instruct and what we expect.  Now programs such as the Discovery Math TechBook change the way we offer instruction using a constructivist style learning with an emphasis on real applications.  We are finally seeing the combination of resources and quality instruction.
Discovery Education Math TechBook
For the first time in history technology and resources are catching up to classroom pedagogy.  It's up to us as teachers to make math instruction be what it was always meant to be.  A search for a better more efficient way to the find the solution to any problem life throws at them.