Mathematics helped or hindered by computing?

Posted by Glen on Jan 4, 2016

It comes as no surprise that in today’s digital age, the emphasis on learning, comes from digital sources, and less from the textbooks that we relied upon so dogmatically in our education. Long gone are the days where the most computing you’d see would be the use of a graphical calculator, or maybe using the computer to do some homework, now schools are invited to join and follow schemes set out by the government to engage students to use computers more frequently throughout their entire education.

Willingham argues that the overall attitude of everyone involved in mathematical learning, from the government right down to student level are disenfranchised. He argues that mathematics is disconnected, and is a difficult subject to represent in the real world paradigm, by teaching mathematics and showing the subject in limited “dumbed down” manner with basic, but overwhelmingly disconnected problems.

“Computers are the solution”

To argue that today maths is more important than ever, is to some extent an understatement, we are enveloped by mathematics principles, properties and functions, so we need to be able to engage and promote the idea of mathematics to students to remove the disenfranchised stigma that maths has for so long held.

Willingham argues that computers are the solution. I agree with this statement, without computers we as teachers would be limited to rudimentary forms of learning, representation and strategies in the classroom, that quite simply fail to grasp the minds of today’s students. By failing to move forward with technology, and by allowing some teachers to maintain resistance to using “futuristic” technology, we have discredited the profession, as our very role should be adapting the way society changes. In my education a student on their phone would have it confiscated, whereas now in today’s classroom dynamic, students are engaged in learning with the use of their phones as a calculator, or as means to represent their ideas, allowing not only students to have a voice in the classroom, but also allowing the students who feel less inclined to put their hand up to have a voice. The digital age has provided classrooms with the means to pursue knowledge in a manner that we could only once have dreamed of, with every ounce of information at ones fingertips, students can explore learning at any level any time, and are by societies doing always connected.

The use of technology also removes the genetic bottleneck of ideas, by allowing teachers from across the world to interact with one another, and to pass ideas back and forth, allowing for more diversity in classrooms, less routine, and ultimately more interest.

However while technology is in my opinion, and most definitely Willingham’s opinion, the way forward, there are always limitations, by allowing technology into the classroom to learn maths, we could potentially be allowing students to develop instrumental learning greater than ever before, by showing students that instead of using your minds to answer questions that are simple, we are allowing students to develop a dependency on technology that we ourselves never had and as such are not aware of the potential dangers/implications it may have.

Like everything in life, moderation is the way forward, but i believe that technology should be used to engage students more effectively than ever before.

1 Comment

  1. Sergio
    10 January 2016

    Excellently written Glen!

    I’ve often accidentally told off students in class for having their phones out only to find that they were using calculators, so I relate to your example. It’s great that students have so many resources in the palm of their hand!

    I also really agree with your point about it removing the bottleneck of ideas! I haven’t met a single teacher who doesn’t use a website like nrich, MrBartonMaths or TES for ideas. You always have somewhere to turn to as a teacher and it’s all thanks to technology!

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