Strategies for Teaching Math Remotely
September 8, 2020

Big Idea

In an effort to simulate the experience of a traditional math class, students will take photos of their problem solving, handwritten in their notebooks, to upload via the Google Doc app on their phone. This process of problem solving and uploading can occur frequently in real time to approximate the classroom experience. This will allow teachers to analyze student work and provide immediate feedback.

Student End

For each math live instruction lesson, we recommend students have a laptop, a cell phone, a notebook, and pencil. On the laptop students will have three tabs open in Google Chrome: Zoom (for the live instruction), a Google Doc (where students will view teacher feedback), and a google drive PDF of the assignment for the lesson. Students will bounce from tab to tab throughout the course of the lesson, so - the bigger the screen - the better. The phone will function as a camera that can upload photos to the Google Doc.


Students will take notes from remote direct instruction, and work through the independent practice problems in their notebook. They will submit notes and classwork in the form of  photos via their phone through the same Google Doc shared on their laptop. (This is easy! We promise!)  This will allow teachers to assess for student understanding and provide immediate feedback.

Teacher End

As technology has advanced, so have the ways students demonstrate understanding of learning targets. Google Forms and Google Docs are popular uses of this tech to determine whether a student “gets it”, particularly in English or History content areas. Math presents unique challenges  because instead of using a keyboard and mouse to explain their ideas, students work through problems with paper and pencil. The challenge of teaching math in a remote learning context is the difficulty for teachers to view student work as they progress through a problem and provide immediate feedback. 


One method to address this challenge during live math instruction is to have students take photos of their formative work through the Google Doc app on their phone. Each student Doc will be shared with the teacher (which means the teacher will have as many Docs open in the browser as there are students in the session). Students will update doc when indicated by teacher or during specified intervals (e.g. at the completion of every other problem).


During the lesson, teachers will be able to edit the Doc by adding praise (“Well done!”), addressing misconceptions (“Review the operation you used on step two”), or marking up the image itself. Further, teachers can provide feedback by simply verbally communicating insteading of writing. A best practice might include having a bank of frequently used comments that a teacher can copy and paste into student Docs. 


The benefits of this method include validating student effort, addressing mistakes on the spot, and creating a sense of urgency in the student to complete the task. Additionally, this seems to be the most frictionless way of sharing handwritten work.


Some best practice notes: students should use the same Doc throughout the course and always upload their most recent work at the TOP of the Doc. Further, teachers should create and share this Doc with students prior to the start of the course. Before each live session teachers should open each student Doc from a pre-arranged Google Sheet. Finally, students should be encouraged to take the photos near a natural light source or with the camera’s flash so that their work will be visible.


This method may seem initially daunting but will get easier with practice. Good luck!


Here is an example of strategy in practice.