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Amid the uncertainty of this past year, teachers have been tasked with completely reinventing their classes. And I think I might have become a better teacher for it. I discovered many new methods and resources for teaching mathematics when I was forced to get out of the rut of the same teaching strategies I’ve used for years. These new tools engaged my students and helped them to think more deeply about mathematical concepts than ever before. Here is a list of my favorite digital tools to enhance learning in the math classroom:
To help students grasp more conceptual ideas, manipulatives play a very important role in the math classroom. This became much more difficult when learning transitioned to happening completely online. Cue the virtual manipulatives! From Algebra tiles to fraction strips and everything in between, Toy Theater has a vast array of manipulatives available. To model and manipulate more complex expressions and equations, the Graspable Math Chrome Extension is another handy resource. One of the most in-depth virtual manipulative resources I’ve found for the secondary math class, though, is Desmos. With this resource, students interact with the concepts and make discoveries. They can share their thinking with the class, and the teacher is able to easily see each student’s work throughout the process. Even without the use of physical materials, these resources have allowed my students to think much more deeply and critically.
I have found digital notes to be much more engaging for my students than the traditional lecture notes. Over this past year, I have utilized digital interactive notebooks in my math class with Google Slides. Students are able to type, drag and drop, create diagrams and digital pictures, solve problems in a maze or mystery picture format, and more easily collaborate with others. Another perk is that through our learning management system, I am able to quickly check each student’s work throughout class and provide more targeted feedback in the moment. With additional options available through the digital notes, students are more excited to learn new skills, and I’ve seen a much higher completion rate of in-class note taking.
A huge benefit of digital learning is the immediate data that can be obtained from online assessments. My absolute favorite resource for digital math assessments is Edulastic. With so many options for technology-enhanced questions, the opportunities are endless. Edulastic can be used for any subject, but its graphs, number lines, math symbols, and equations make it an especially powerful tool in math. Students are able to demonstrate their understanding in a variety of ways. Data is provided to the teacher for the whole class and for specific students. This information includes mastery of the standards, difficult questions, time spent on each problem, and more. There are so many ways to customize assessments through Edulastic; it is definitely worth checking out for any digital math class.
One of the biggest challenges of online teaching is keeping students engaged throughout the class. When students are learning with devices, there are so many more opportunities to become distracted. One of the best ways I have found to combat this is through virtual games. Blooket and Gimkit are two favorites in my classroom. There are a number of game modes so students never get bored, and my class asks to play almost every day. Students are genuinely excited about solving math problems when they get to do so in a game format. That’s always a win!
Although challenging at times, teaching in an online setting this past year has pushed me to go outside of my comfort zone and become a better teacher. I have learned many new strategies and tools that have engaged my learners and allowed them to thrive despite the challenges. When the world gets back to “normal,” these resources will definitely remain as a permanent fixture in my classroom.
Taylor Houseman is a seventh grade math teacher in Orono, Minnesota. She is currently obtaining her Masters in Educational Technology through Concordia University, St. Paul
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