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An essential tool for teaching

The National Council for Teachers of Mathematics holds that technology is “an essential tool for teaching and learning mathematics effectively” and that it extends teaching and learning opportunities.

Tools such as interactive graphing calculators and computer software not only help in collecting and analyzing data, but also help students “extend the range and quality of their mathematical investigations and encounter mathematical ideas in more realistic settings,” according to NCTM’s math position.

When properly implemented and supported, technology can help students increase achievement and grasp complex math concepts that might otherwise be too obscure for thorough understanding, the organization says.

Because technology is an essential tool in the math classroom, educators must be adequately prepared to know when and how students can most effectively use technology to boost learning, according to NCTM.

NCTM’s recommendations for technology in the math classroom, posted on the organization’s web site, include:

•    Every school mathematics program should provide students and teachers with access to instructional technology tools, including appropriate calculators, computers with mathematical software, internet connectivity, handheld data-collection devices, and sensing probes.

•    Pre-service and in-service teachers of mathematics at all levels should be provided with appropriate professional development in the use of instructional technology, the development of mathematics lessons that take advantage of technology-rich environments, and the integration of technology into day-to-day instruction.

•    Curricula and courses of study at all levels should incorporate appropriate instructional technology in objectives, lessons, and assessment of learning outcomes.

•    Programs of pre-service teacher preparation and in-service professional development should strive to instill dispositions of openness to experimentation with ever-evolving technological tools and their pervasive impact on mathematics education.

•    Teachers should make informed decisions about the appropriate implementation of technologies in a coherent instructional program.

The Center for Implementing Technology in Education (CITEd) conducted seven focus groups in 2005 to examine the challenges facing schools and districts when it comes to implementing technology.

Some common challenges emerged, including funding and professional development needs.

The two are somewhat linked: Many focus group members said that limited funding means limited professional development opportunities. Tight school budgets also mean outdated computers, software programs, and internet connections.

In addition, educators said time constraints often limit the extent to which they integrate technology into their instruction. CITEd reports that teachers said they don’t have the time to find technology resources online or in professional learning communities.

Limited time and funding contribute to what many in the focus groups said is an urgent need to help math teachers experience professional development that uses the technology teachers already have access to in their own classrooms. Because such opportunities often are not available, teachers are left to determine how to integrate technology into their teaching without support.


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Laura Ascione

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