The power of novel technology is deemed as one of the strongest forces influencing the modern evolution and the growth in math teaching and mathematics (International Society for Technology in Education, 2000). In education, technology amplified the significance of specific ideas, topics and problems making them more accessible and also offered new methods of presenting and handling mathematical information (Jones, 1996). Furthermore, it completely fostered new fields of study. However, contemporary research has revealed that students’ learning is impacted by a multifaceted system: parents, teachers, cultural expectations, education, beliefs and theories, their aspirations and interests, curricula, technology and other aspects (International Society for Technology in Education, 2000). The effect of these considerations can be understood in relation to each other. Particularly, this is true for technology, as it partially clarifies why there is no universally accepted or single perception of the best employment of computers and calculators in classrooms (Jones, 1996). This master’s thesis focuses on the benefits of using technology, such as computers, iPads, calculators and other devices in a math classroom. In particular, the master’s thesis discusses the benefits for students and their influence on them, as well as their learning both now and in the future.
Benefits of Using Technology in a Math Classroom and How It Affects Students and Their Learning both Now and in the Future
Current studies have shown that technology influences greatly how students study in the classroom. The integration of technology in modern math classrooms is of great benefit both for students and teachers. Generally, technology offers opportunities to solve a wide range of problems and, moreover, provides ways in which such problems may be presented. It is apparent that some problems are very difficult to be presented in a pencil classroom (International Society for Technology in Education, 2000). Evidently, some lessons make students experiment with specific mathematical objects and see how they react (Jones, 1996). On the other hand, some make it necessary to use visual representations, such as diagrams, graphs, moving images, or geometric figures, which respond to commands, questions and answers.
Computers usually offer an interactive virtual manipulative, when physical devices are not available. Evidently, the employment of these technologies influences students’ learning. If the electronic or physical manipulative is properly designed and employed, it is able to amplify an array of problems, which students can reflect on and solve (Shamatha et al., 2004). Computers offer a visual representation to students, which provide them with a better way of understanding what they are taught. This visual aspect allows students to visualize shapes, since they can see them. Computers can manipulate 3D shapes in a manner that students can look at them more clearly as compared to the use of paper (Shamatha et al., 2004).
Curriculum is the main determinant of kinds of mathematical ideas learnt and gained by students. In comparison with calculators, in a math classroom computers are used to offer students mathematically rich and responsive environments for representing, encountering experiencing and reasoning about mathematical ideas (International Society for Technology in Education, 2000). This is caused by the fact that sheer screen space allows a wider array of mathematical ideas with the increased techniques of representing and manipulating them. In addition, this allows a wider range of teaching and learning styles, providing such education settings as microworlds and puzzles, mathematical programming environments, tutoring structures, geometric construction tools, visualization and others (Shamatha et al., 2004).
Studies prove that implementing technology into mathematics curricula enables students to learn more efficiently and quicker, keeping them engaged in what they are taught (Jones, 1996). It is true that, because of reducing stress on studying computational algorithms, the time will be available for students to spend learning mental arithmetic, problem solving and estimation skills. Furthermore, the use of technology, in particular calculators, modifies the nature and kinds of problems, which are essential in mathematics, and in addition, opens the door for new techniques of investigating such problems (International Society for Technology in Education, 2000). Moreover, calculators are deemed to minimize the time spent learning specific skills and solving problems and, as a result, a large number of applications are to be considered. The use of calculators inspires students, which may be discouraged by tedious computations. Such students may be motivated by the possibility to discover the richness of math.
Calculators greatly assist students in problem-solving, pattern recognition, reinforcement of computational skills and using numbers. Furthermore, calculators assist tutors in teaching certain topics, such as integers, fractions and percents, exponents, area and perimeter. The implementation of calculators in the math curricula minimizes the time spent by students on tedious algebraic manipulations and pencil-paper computations, implying that students will have adequate time for problem-solving, concept development, estimation and mental arithmetic (International Society for Technology in Education, 2000). The New National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) recommends students to make use of calculators for the following reasons:
- Discovering and conducting experiments with a variety of mathematical ideas, including algebraic and numerical properties, patterns and functions;
- Widening and reinforcing skills, including graphing, computation estimation, and analyzing data;
- Carrying out tedious computations developed in the process of working with real data;
- Getting access to mathematical ideas that surpass those levels limited by the traditional use of pencil paper computations (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000)
The use of graphing calculators by students in a math classroom proved to be very beneficial. For instance, students work more intelligently in comparison with the case, when the traditional manual method is used. This is described as the formation of an “intelligent partnership” with graphing calculators by students (Jones, 1996). According to the studies of some scientists, graphing calculators generally advance classroom dynamics, improve problem-solving capacity, amplify students’ confidence and enhance understanding of mathematical functions and concepts (Shamatha et al., 2004). When used well, graphing calculators do not pose any danger on the students’ ability to work out algebraic procedures or manipulations.
Graphing calculators assist students in discovering mathematical theorems, visualizing problems, checking the validity of answers, test hypothesis and discovering new ways of solving mathematical problems (Jones, 1996). Furthermore, by means of the use of graphing calculators, students can explore and discover various topics on their own. Scholars points out that, graphing calculators make the approach towards learning easier, and convert a classroom from the environment, in which students sit back inactively listening to a tutor, to that one, in which students work hand in hand with each other to create new ideas and solutions (Jones, 1996). In addition, graphing calculators assist in advancing communications among students and provide a better way for students to generate graphs.
Because of the rapid technological growth, incorporating technology, such as computers, calculators and iPads, into teaching and learning mathematics is very beneficial for students, since these technologies provide an efficient way of learning (International Society for Technology in Education. (2000). For instance, as a result of learning probability in a math classroom, students can do spreadsheets in a more efficient way.
Although the use of technology in a math classroom proves to be of great benefit, most parents and teachers think that it may be of great harm to students in the future. They base their arguments on the fact that most students tend to become dependent on the use of technology to such extent, that they cannot undertake simple computations in every day life without the use of technology, in particular calculators (Shamatha et al., 2004).
As put forth by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2000), technology advances mathematical learning and supports efficient mathematical teaching. Furthermore, technology can assist students in learning mathematics. The graphic power of technological instruments gives access to powerful models, although most students cannot produce them independently (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000). The computational use of technological instruments increases an array of problems for students and allows them to carry out routine processes accurately and quickly. This offers students more time to conceptualize and model.
This analysis shows that the use of technology in a math classroom is very beneficial for students. In education, technology makes specific ideas, topics and problems more accessible and offers new methods of presenting and handling mathematical information. Generally, technology offers opportunities to solve a wide range of problems and provides ways for presenting such problems. In comparison with the use of calculators, the use of computers or iPads in a math classroom offers students mathematically rich and responsive environments for representing, encountering, experiencing and reasoning mathematical ideas. Having conduced the research we came to the conclusion that the use of technology in a math classroom makes the approach towards learning easier, and converts a classroom from the environment, in which students sit back inactively listening to a tutor, to that, in which students work hand in hand with each other to create new ideas and solutions.