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Math Instruction Soars in the 1:1 Classroom

EducationWorld is pleased to present this article shared by Mark Pullen, a third-grade teacher in East Grand Rapids, MI. Pullen writes extensively on the subject of classroom technology integration.

Access to 1:1 technology can revolutionize any classroom. Math, however, is perhaps the subject that can immediately undergo the largest and most radical transformation as a result of every student having access to an Internet-connected device. Let’s examine three key areas of change:

Curricular Individualization

Without 1:1 technology, students in a traditional math class typically listen to lectures and work through content all at the same, standardized pace. Access to technology allows each student to have his own personal teacher/tutor through the use of teacher-created videos or videos created by outside sources (in addition to non-profit sources like Khan Academy, several major publishers have begun to include video tutorials with their most recent online textbook releases). 

Students can then receive computer-generated practice problems that are not only individualized based on previous work, but also automatically checked when the student answers them. This provides instant scaffolding for the student and prevents misconceptions from developing.

As a result of 1:1 technology, students can therefore work through material at their own pace, and the classroom schedule can be mastery-based instead of seat-time-based. This is a huge shift that just by itself has the power to completely transform the way mathematics is taught.

The Role of the Teacher

Back when I taught mathematics without the benefit of 1:1 technology, an enormous amount of my after-school time was spent correcting student work.

I teach three third-grade math classes (along with teaching reading and writing to my homeroom class), so I typically had work from 75 students to examine each night. 

After hours of correcting, I was fortunate if I could manage to find time to devise even a simple two-tiered lesson that differentiated somewhat for student ability. Now that I’ve begun to teach in a 1:1 classroom, I find myself correcting student work only for more complex, extended-response problems. For more straightforward things like computational practice, I have the students solve problems online instead. 

With my students’ work instantly corrected, I am freed to view their progress at a glance and spend my time refining my lesson plans to much more precisely meet the needs of students of a variety of abilities. 

Instead of just running two-tiered lessons, student differentiation can be much more exact, often to the degree where each student’s task on a given day can be completely individualized based on her strengths and weaknesses as demonstrated the previous day.

The Gamification of the Math Classroom

One-to-one technology in the math classroom also allows for the use of interactive games and simulations that are much more enticing to students than traditional paper-and-pencil practice. For elementary students, winning a virtual badge, conquering a level, or playing a multi-player online math game can turn what once seemed like difficult math work into something much more fun and rewarding. For a reluctant middle-school math student, turning math into a game with real character development can make all the difference. 

To any school board or administrator looking to find a place where 1:1 technology will be instantly valued and appreciated, math classrooms might be the best place to start.

About the Author

Mark Pullen has been an elementary teacher for 14 years and currently teaches third grade in East Grand Rapids, MI. He’s an advocate for classroom technology integration and writes extensively on that subject on behalf of Worth Ave Group, a leading provider of laptop, tablet computer and iPad insurance for schools and universities.


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