A free resource helps teachers locate interactive tools for math instruction.
Numerous studies have highlighted the importance of U.S. students’ math achievement, and now math teachers have a new resource, aligned with the Common Core standards and available free of charge, that might help them teach abstract math lessons.
Launched on Jan. 18, Wolfram Alpha’s Wolfram Education Portal is a free website, currently in beta testing, that offers teaching tools and materials such as an interactive textbook, lesson plans aligned with the Common Core State Standards, and supplemental materials that include demonstrations, widgets, and videos.
Wolfram Alpha, created by noted scientist Stephen Wolfram, is a free research website powered by a computational knowledge engine that generates answers to questions in real time by doing calculations on its own vast internal knowledge base. The site’s Education Portal contains full materials for algebra and selected materials for calculus, but it will continue to grow and include more materials. Wolfram plans to expand the Education Portal to include community features, problem generators, web-based course apps, and the ability to create personalized content.
Crystal Fantry, senior education specialist at Wolfram, said the resource offers “some of the most dynamic teaching and learning tools available.”
Wolfram worked with the nonprofit CK-12 Foundation to develop the interactive textbook. The CK-12 Foundation aims to produce free and open-source K-12 materials aligned with state curriculum standards and customized to meet students’ and teachers’ needs.
The foundation’s FlexBook platform is an open-content, web-based collaborative model. FlexBooks are up-to-date, standards-aligned, and customizable by subject, language, and level of difficulty. They also are self-publishable, giving teachers the flexibility to create tailored educational content for their students.
Wolfram’s new Algebra textbook takes CK-12’s Algebra I FlexBook and makes it dynamic with Wolfram technologies, including Wolfram Alpha widgets, links, interactive demonstrations created in Mathematica, and the Computable Document Format.
A number of initiatives are cropping up to help teachers and students succeed in math instruction and learning.
A program at Western Kentucky University (WKU) is helping some elementary school teachers enhance how they teach math and use more technology in the classroom.
The three-year Math and Technology Leadership Academy, which wrapped up its first year in May, aims to give teachers new ideas and better teaching methods.
A $500,000 grant from the Toyota USA Foundation helps cover teachers’ course fees and allows WKU faculty members to run the academy.
In addition to graduate-level online classes, teachers routinely attend seminars led by education experts and university professors. It comes at a time when educators are emphasizing the importance of math and technology.
And national movement 100Kin10 aims to increase the supply of math and science teachers and retain excellent teachers currently in U.S. classrooms by preparing 100,000 new math and science teachers over the next 10 years.
The initiative was sparked by President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union speech, in which he called for an increase in the number and quality of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teachers, and by the impending retirement of thousands of STEM teachers over the next few years.