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Free Online Math Tools for High School You Haven’t Heard of, But Should Totally Be Using

In the new age of technology and the push for 21st century skills in our classrooms, it’s easy for teachers to feel intimidated. New tech appears every day, but “new” tech doesn’t always mean “better” tech. How do we sort through it all? On top of that, much of this new tech requires resources and funding that might not yet be available to school districts. Math teachers, in particular, face a challenging task of wanting to integrate computer literacy, while still teaching and supporting many of the foundational skills for math work. Students often need to show their work, which, without tablets, can be a challenge on a digital forum. The wide variety of math software available on the market today tends to require a separate type of literacy altogether, which can be both tough to learn and time-intensive. Khan has been revolutionary in differentiating math learning, supplying both video lessons and a vast amount of practice for students, easily monitored and facilitated by teachers. 

However, what about interactive, manipulatable math tools that support learning? Where are the digital math support programs that can assist in math learning, as opposed to outsourcing the direct teaching to the device? More importantly, can our students access them without pricey licensing fees, new hardware, or complicated apps? Today, Education World shares three free easy-to-use sites that assist math learning in the teacher-facilitated modern classroom.

1.  Desmos

Not only does Desmos provide free online four-function, scientific, and graphing calculators for student use (no more losing your calculator), it carries a wide variety of full interactive—almost game-like—lessons. Providing nothing more than your email, Desmos allows teachers to create an online class with student log-ons to access a wide variety of activities covering everything from linear systems to functions to exponents. Teachers can then monitor student progress through each lesson.

The lessons themselves feel really organic and well-thought-out, too. With their Function Carnival, for example, students are asked to watch a ten-second video, attempt to graph what they see, and then replay the video to revise their thinking. The online system allows students to get feedback immediately to adjust their answers until they find success. With Polygraph, students are first encouraged to solve problems with the tools they already have, before being presented with the need for a new tool. That new skill is taught, and the student is able to solve the problems. Water Line allows students to create water glasses that can be kept in an online classroom cupboard, for all students to experiment with collaboratively. These modules are not only fun, but also embrace best teaching practices that spark a natural curiosity in a user-friendly, interactive environment. What more could a teacher ask for?

Desmos also provides a wealth of teacher professional development, webinars, and user support videos, including how to create and share your own modules. It’s a priceless math resource, all provided online and free of charge!

2.  Yummy Math

Yummy Math has a simple, blog-like feel, but it is a resource to be reckoned with when it comes to applicable, real-world math. The activities and lessons provided are organized by both grade level and subject matter, covering numbers and quantity, algebra, functions, geometry, and statistics and probability for high school users. Each module, however, has its roots in current events, challenges of everyday life, and even hints of career investigations. In short, Yummy Math is the answer to the math classroom’s favorite question: “When am I ever going to use this?”

In The 33, students use geometry to analyze the space and resources at hand for the 33 Chilean miners rescued in 2010. In How Much Is A Tweet Worth?, probability and statistics come into play to figure out the relationship between a celebrity’s number of Twitter followers and their ability to capitalize on company endorsements in their tweets. For your sports fans, Fantasy Football allows users to use algebra to calculate player points, as well as generalize an equation for total fantasy team points.

Content is added all the time, including media, worksheets, real-world data, and current topics. Yummy Math has added content for subscription accounts, but once again the lessons are free to access and use online.

3.  Cymath

Cymath might not be incredibly unique in what it does, but it is absolutely the best free user-friendly problem-solver on the web. In short, with Cymath, you type in a math problem, and it’ll show you the step-by-step process of how to solve it. Simple, right? But Cymath’s system covers basic math, pre-algebra, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, graphing, and so much more. Not only will it give students the detailed process on how to solve a problem in these fields, it gives a wide variety on how to present the answer (solve for x, solve graphically, etc.). We need students to show their work, and Cymath models that perfectly for them.

The “search bar” interface is fantastically friendly to students, providing a calculator keyboard for equation-building, as well as recognizing basic direct commands. The practice section as well as the reference for mathematical rules is a nice addition to the tool, allowing students to access and rehearse some of the foundational principals for the math they are studying.

Written by Keith Lambert, Education World Associate Contributing Editor

Lambert is an English / Language Arts teacher in Connecticut.