My teaching interests generally lie within three different areas of studies; special education, mathematics, and assistive technology. I am going to combine all three and explore the implication of different mathematical assistive technology tools into my Algebra one classroom and how to engage the students more with real life examples. I feel that if I can do both of these things, then this will lead to an increase in my students understanding and retention of the Algebra one benchmarks and GLICs.
The problem that I am seeing at the high school level, as a special education math teacher is that by the time I have my students in class, the students have had eight years of math behind them. Most of my students have struggled with math since the very beginning, they have been beaten up and put down countless times because of their math abilities or lack of. Once I get them in class, most of the students have given up and want nothing to do with trying to learn the math; the students are disengaged, irritated, have low self-esteem, and lack self-confidence. I want to change that by helping my students become successful in math by making math fun and engaging to my students.
The approach that I plan to take to accomplish my mission of making my students more successful in math, building and maintaining those important math building blocks, as well as effectively engaging my students more with real-world examples has two main practices. The first is to implement new mathematical assistive technology tools into my Algebra one classroom. My reasoning behind implementing more assistive technology into my classroom, instead of just teaching right from the book comes from the readings of week five on assistive technology and week 12 on mathematics. The you tube video from Michael Wesch and Kansas State Digital Ethnography Students really made me think about technology and how we use it to learn and why I should use more technology to engage my students. I do really believe that todays students learn information differently then you and I did when we went to school. Todays students have a continuous link to information at a rapid rate. They need to be constantly stimulated to keep their interest in something. Another reason is because not all students learn the same way and if I can present the material in as many different ways that I can, I have a better chance of more students understanding the material. Lastly, I have known for sometime that students don’t really care about which train will reach Denver, CO first. If one leaves San Francisco at three p.m. traveling at 80 miles per hour and one leaves New York City at noon traveling 90 miles per hour. Nancy Stewart and Ira Socol both confirmed my theory on this subject matter in their Twitter conversation. I believe that students want problems that are interesting to solve and that they want to know the answer to, the problem doesn’t always have to be real-world as long as it is interesting to the students and that they are interested in finding out the answer to the problem.
After doing much research on different math assistive technology tools, I have come up with what I feel is the best tools that will assist my students in being successful in my Algebra class. It is important to note that while I am incorporating new assistive technology tools into my class, I am using them along with the school districts textbook. I am using these tools as supplementary aids, guest lectures, tools to build and or reinforce, and tools to build prior knowledge that the students didn’t understand the first time around.
The first assistive technology tool that will be implemented will be the Odyssey Math program; this company has been developing assistive technology tools for forty years under different names throughout the years. The Odyssey Math Program has many different options that either can be implemented into an ongoing Algebra curriculum or as a stand alone curriculum. The Odyssey Math Program is a K-12 software-based curriculum that assesses each students understanding of key math ideas that are linked to the GLIC standards for Algebra in Michigan by pre-assessing their abilities and based on the students abilities builds a personalized math curriculum that will focus on strengthening those necessary building blocks that the student can rely on not only in Algebra, but also in future math classes. Once a personalized math curriculum is built for each student; each student will progress through each lesson on the computer. A general lesson will include a lecture part or parts; each lecture or part is between five and seven minutes long. Compass Learning has done extensive research and found that 5-7 minutes is the maximum amount of time a student will be engage in a lecture that the student is not actively engaged in. After the lecture, the student will complete a hands on activity to practice the new skill. Next either a new part of the lecture will be presented or an assessment will be given to the student. During an assessment the student will get immediate feedback on each question on the assessment. Each assessment question has been built from a matrix; so each possible answer a student gives has probable tendencies on the reasoning behind that right or wrong answer. For each question the students gets right, they get reinforced on what they are doing correctly and for each question they get wrong the student gets redirected and told why they have gotten the answer wrong and how they got their answer and what they need to do to get the correct answer. Each lesson is not setup in the same order as the last lesson, this is done intentionally to break up the monotony of the lecture-activity-test trap that most of these software based programs fall into. I will be using the Odyssey Math Program in two different manors; first I can use it as a way of explaining a new idea to the students. The second is that I can use it as a curriculum enrichment tool to help support students that are struggle with a certain idea.
The second assistive technology tool that will be used is the Holt online learning program that comes with the textbook. Within this online program the students are able to use a virtual textbook that is the same textbook that they use in class. The student also have excess to extra practice problems, note cards for vocabulary, practice quizzes for each section of the book, and video lectures for each lesson. Other assistive technology tools that I will implement into my lessons are websites that give me audio and visual props such as calculators and manipulative. Some of the manipulative that I can use are an Algebra balance scale, Algebra tiles, base ten blocks, pattern blocks, line plotter, a grapher, a function machine, function transformations, and a point plotter. Along with these manipulative, I can also use visual and auditory lessons that illustrate how to find common factors, how to find common denominators, inverses, and integers. All of these tools are great for engaging the student because they get to see it on the screen and hear it as well. These tools also break up the monotony of hearing my voice repeatedly.
The next part of my mission of making my students more successful in math, building and maintaining those important math building blocks, as well as effectively engaging my students more with real-world examples is to engage my students more with real-world examples. My plan is not to rewrite the textbook that I am using and only use real-world example, no that would be impossible, it is to change those “real life examples” already in the textbook, into problems that are interesting to the students and that the student want to solve and find the answer out too. I also want to incorporate my own real world examples and activities, and use some from assistive technology websites such as www.realworldmath.org. By incorporating interesting problems into the lessons the students find learning the material is worth while and not just busy work or something that they will never use again in there lives. When the students are solving problems that are real world, you will not get the common question that everyone has heard before and that question is “when are we ever going to use this again.”
After continually seeing students with math disabilities struggle with learning math and not being successful in there math classes, I decided that something needed to be changed and I decided that my own teaching style needed to adapt to the learning styles of my students. This is the reason I decided to incorporate more assistive technology tools into my lessons and change the “real life” examples in the textbook to examples that the students were interested in. You can not hammer students that have difficulties with processing information, that have trouble with multistep equations, simple arithmetic, and understanding math language with the old paper and pencil method of teaching math, it’s not the greatest way of getting the information a crossed to these types of students. My hope is by implementing more assistive technology tools into my classroom that the students will be more engage in the lessons. Also instead of just receiving the information in one form, such as myself lecturing at the board, the students will be receiving the information in multi-forms, such as visually by virtual manipulative and auditory by another person. This will lead to better comprehension and retention of the material. My hope for incorporating more interesting and real world examples in my lessons is that the students will find the problem meaningful. Multiple studies have show that if a student finds a subject matter or lesson to have meaningful, then that particular student will learn the material on a much more deeper understanding and will be ability to retrieving the material later better then someone who does not find the material to be meaningful. Lastly, for me the bottom line is that my students were not understanding the material the old fashion way of drill and practice, so I needed to come up with a new way of presenting the material, so that my students have the best possible chance to understand the material that I am teaching them.
Compass Learning: http://www.compasslearningodyssey.com/
Nancy Stewart: Math On-Line Resources and Math Technology: http://nancylstewart.wordpress.com/2009/08/23/a-bit-more-on-dont-run-a-class-like-a-caveman/
Ira Socol: Real World Math: http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2009/04/real-world-math.html
Michael Wesch and Kansas State Digital Ethnography Students: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGCJ46vyR9o
Holt Online Learning: http://my.hrw.com/index.jsp?message=logout
Visual Mathematics: http://dmc.utep.edu/mouratt/vis_math/visuala.html
National Library of Virtual Manipulative: http://nlvm.usu.edu/en/nav/category_g_4_t_2.html
Great Schools: Math Assistive Technology: http://www.greatschools.org/LD/assistive-technology/math-tools.gs?content=949
South Carolina Assistive Technology Program: http://www.sc.edu/scatp/ld.htm
Visual Math Learning: http://www.visualmathlearning.com/
Harvey’s Homepage: http://HarveysHomePage.com
Graph Calc.: http://www.graphcalc.com/