Back to: Module: Helping Students Do Math

## Setup

Jessica was happy. For once, math class was going well. After barely surviving Algebra with a C, she had made it into Geometry. The first few weeks hadn’t been much better than Algebra had been—worse, in fact, because she had lacked the algebra skills needed to understand what was going on in Geometry class. She liked the new teacher, Mrs. Baez. Unfortunately, liking a teacher wasn’t enough to help her pass. Fortunately, Mrs. Baez was more than likable; she was aware of her students.

After Jessica failed the first test, Mrs. Baez pulled her aside and asked what was going on. Jessica explained that she simply didn’t understand anything, especially the concepts related to algebra. Mrs. Baez asked Jessica if she had thought about hiring a tutor. She even offered to work on the algebra skills with Jessica after school. “Thanks for the offer, Mrs. Baez,” said Jessica, “but I have to babysit my little sister after school every day. And my mom said we couldn’t afford a tutor.” Mrs. Baez said, “Have you heard of Khan Academy? It’s a free program that can help you brush up on specific math skills. It’s not the best solution, but it would certainly be better than nothing at 8:00 in the evening when you’re staring at your homework and can’t remember how to factor equations.”

At that point, Mrs. Baez noticed the doodles in the margin of Jessica’s Geometry notebook and asked about them. Jessica blushed and confessed that she liked art much more than math. “It’s just so much more… visual!” she said.

Mrs. Baez thought for a moment, and then reached inside her desk. She pulled out a circle and a handful of pie-shaped wedges. She asked Jessica to figure out how many of the wedges would fit inside the circle. Jessica played around with the wedges just a bit. She said that it would be about eight of them. “That’s correct, Jessica,” Mrs. Baez said, “and that’s just like the first problem you missed on the test.” Jessica sighed, “Math would be so much easier for me if I had math toys like these to play with for every question. Do you have more of these?” Mrs. Baez shook her head sadly.

Jackson, a paraprofessional who occasionally helped out in Mrs. Baez’s class, happened to be passing by. “I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop,” he spoke up, “but I know of something that might help. I’ve been taking this online course on math stuff for paraprofessionals. We just learned about something that you might be interested in, Jessica. It’s a collection of online versions of math toys like those wedges… and it’s all for free!” “Yay!” said Jessica, “I think I’m really going to like Geometry.”

## Challenge Questions

(to be answered by yourself or in a group)

- What is your level of comfort and familiarity with technology in general? What about your comfort and familiarity with technology related to math learning?
- Students encounter a wide variety of struggles in math class. How can technology help out with some of these struggles?
- For which struggles with math are there fewer technological supports? Why do you think this is the case?
- What could you do to improve your understanding of technological resources for math learning?