Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mathematical problem solving with iPads

Krista McKeague, lead math teacher in our Middle School, writes:

This time last year...

I was just getting the hang of using a new iPad textbook for my Algebra 1 class, and still hanging on to my beloved tablet PC to write and project my math notes.  I liked my iPad and how it facilitated communication with students (Box, Socrative, Educreations, etc)... but I wasn’t sure exactly how to integrate it seamlessly in to my daily math instruction.  A couple things have changed in the few months.  I now have the infrastructure in my room to make optimum use of my iPad, and developers are finally coming out with iPad friendly math apps that actually promote mathematical problem solving, something long promised by rarely delivered.

I’ll start with my room.  Instead of manually connecting my iPad to the projector (and having the cord fall out every few minutes!), I now have Apple TV, which allows me to circulate in the room while writing notes and teaching (I’m still working on the skill of writing, walking at talking at the same time!). Apple TV also allows students to quickly project their iPad screen when asked to show their work or contribute to the notes.  With a few simple buttons conveniently located by my screen I can toggled back and forth between writing notes with my iPad, projecting a book or answer key with my document camera, and annotating a worksheet or example problem using my “smart pen.”  (A smart pens works with a smart projector to electronically write on the board, with the capability of saving for email or future use.)  I’m still working on perfecting this dance, but it’s coming along!

Next, I have been pleasantly surprised with a new level of math apps that are both deeper in the conceptual understanding they require from the user, and easier to use!  One of my favorites is a game called DragonBox (we actually use DragonBox+ which includes more levels) that has you solving complex algebraic equations without you even realizing you are doing math at first!  It truly marries a fun, addictive game quality to a very important and often complex concept (especially as you get into rational and radical equations) of balancing an equation as you isolate the variable.  According to the reviews, children in early primary grades enjoy it, and I certainly found it engaging! While most math apps up to this point have been an overlay of math drills on top of an entertaining backdrop, this is a new generation of math game that I believe holds true to it’s promise of promoting mathematical and logical thinking.  I am planning to use this with both pre-algebra and algebra students to strengthen their understanding of this important concept.

All in all, I’m enjoying that both the hardware and software in my world is becoming easier to implement and easier and more meaningful to integrate into my curriculum!

For an interesting review of DragonBox:

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