“To us, that’s what was so exciting,” he said. “It really opened up a lot more opportunities. You could still use it as your workhorse, but it also revealed a chance to design some action-consequence environments: Students can take a purposeful action and immediately see the consequence. There are lots more chances to ask ‘why’ questions.”
Burrill added: “The really important thing is that every student is engaged in thinking about those ‘why’ questions. They’re not observing someone else do it, they’re not listening to someone tell them what is happening, they’re actually engaged in it, in an interactive math classroom having conversations with each other and with the teacher about what might be causing the consequences and how they might think harder about the mathematics.”
The researchers’ work is reflected in many of the resources contained in TI’s Math Nspired (www.mathnspired.com), an online collection of classroom-ready lessons that address these tough-to-teach concepts using the TI-Nspire system.
Burrill said interactivity in math classrooms makes children more visible to teachers—they can’t hide their written work under their hands and can’t avoid eye contact if a teacher has a classroom system that displays every child’s screen and work on a master computer or unit. And because teachers have that access, they can help students who might not grasp a specific topic in a more sensitive way.
“I think, with teachers in general, the approach has resonated,” said Dick. “Teachers are always looking for an alternative way to get through to kids. One approach might work for the vast majority of the class, but you want to reach everyone in the class—so having some alternatives is what’s neat about having these explorations.”