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19, April 2019 Learning skills

How EdTech can improve math lessons

Everything a computer does, it does through calculations. It should be no surprise at all that there are numerous apps dedicated to doing math at all levels, from basic arithmetic to advanced calculus: after all, it is what a computer does best and it is only natural that teachers should explore the full potential of a machine that can do millions of calculations per second.

More than a calculator

Using a computer or a tablet during math lessons is much more than an expedient way to solve problems: any pocket calculator can add, subtract, multiply and divide, but the power of EdTech solutions for teaching and learning math goes far beyond making calculations quicker.

Studies have shown that students who used math applications regularly did significantly better on tests than peers who did not, and a closer look at the powerful features of those apps can easily explain the phenomenon.

From Ink Math Assistant, a feature of Microsoft OneNote that can convert handwritten equations to text and graph them instantly, to the vast potential of GeoGebra, the world of math apps is wide and full of wonders.

GeoGebra is free and used in schools worldwide by a thriving community of teachers who share their learning material for others to use and rely on the app to help students learn and visualise complex mathematical concepts, and with its quick installation process and remarkable ease of use, it requires no significant time investment to instruct students or teachers on how to employ it best: it is math at your fingertips, as easy or difficult as your class needs, with no need to know complex programming languages.

 

From numbers to reality

Visualisation is perhaps the greatest keyword that most math applications share, and when used correctly, their inherently visual nature can even be a boon to students suffering from dyscalculia.

Sometimes referred to as math dyslexia, although the two are quite separate and this is something of a misnomer, dyscalculia manifests as significant difficulties in grasping mathematical concepts, such as making the association between a number and the corresponding word or keeping numbers in mind while solving a problem that requires multiple steps.

An application that helps put those concepts in a visual form is helpful to anyone, but even more so to students who are starting at a disadvantage: with specially designed learning games such as Dybuster Calcularis and browser extensions such as EquatIO by Texthelp, numbers no longer have to be something abstract and with no connection to the real world.

A well-designed math app helps see the correlation between a number and a tangible quantity of items, or between formulas and lines and shapes on a graph: in the hands of a good teacher, such a tool can lead to true understanding of the underlying mathematical concepts, as opposed to rote memorisation of rules and tables that mean nothing to the student. Math is often portrayed as a difficult and almost universally disliked subject, but the right tools can make it feel less daunting and show students the potential for practical applications of facts they have only learnt in theory, increasing their motivation to learn math and dispelling the often-heard notion that ‘it’s not worth studying it, I’ll never use it in real life’.

From a vast array of practice problems with instant feedback on what you did right or wrong, to video instruction to support the introduction or review of a concept, and from creating perfect graphs in moments without a pencil and a ruler to manipulating virtual objects to solidify your understanding of what numbers and formulas really mean, different math apps suit different needs, both in terms of difficulty level and in the features they offer, and it is only a matter of finding the one that works for you as a student or a teacher.

Whether you are struggling with numbers or a math genius in need of a revision, and whether you are a child just learning to count or an advanced student dealing with complex algebraic formulas, math apps are helpful to all ages, levels and purposes, no matter if you seek to learn new concepts from scratch or simply have some extra practice.

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