By Teachers, For Teachers
Math used to be a tedious memorization of facts and formulas. That changed somewhat when online worksheets allowed students to practice until they got it, but it didn't make it any more fun. Then that, too, changed when rote drills and worksheets were replaced with cerebral challenges and dynamic exercises. Thousands of students found out, to their surprise -- and often, their parents’ surprise -- that they loved math. Here are five technology in the classroom math resources that will turn boring math into a favorite subject.
Mathletics is a captivating technology in the classroom learning space that provides students with all the tools needed to be successful math learners both in the classroom and beyond. Programs are geared to the particular learning of elementary, middle school, and high school, with games and lessons aligned to state and national standards like Common Core, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, and Mathematics Florida Standards. Teachers can set content and specific tasks for students to practice skills they lack, reinforce current coursework, or enrich personalized student needs and interests. The program caters to each teacher’s unique blend of student-driven learning and teacher-led instruction, giving teachers the ability to provide resources for specific students or groups. Students who love games can compete against classmates or other students from around the world (with their teacher’s permission, of course), with high scorers displayed on a web-based leaderboard.
Students have their own customizable technology in the classroom dashboard, which includes required tasks, questions to answer, and extra help (with videos and a dictionary) on difficult questions. There is also a section with math games for those who learn best by challenging themselves. The teacher dashboard makes it easy to manage students and classes and dynamic reporting tools allow for the analysis of student progress and the provision of comprehensive data for specific school requirements.
I like that this program includes parents as partners in learning by providing parents with a view of their child's learning.
Provided by CSERD (the Computational Science Education Reference Desk), Interactivate offers a series of free web-based math games, puzzles, and challenges for students in grades K-12. Some of the activities allow users to select a difficulty level, problem type, and time limit. A few are for two players (like the Connect Four games), but most are for individuals. Students can track correct responses, allowing it to be used as an assessment if desired.
There are about 118 games, sorted by age group (grades 3-5, 6-8, and high school) and subject, including:
Most games are simple to play, will run on any system, and are intuitive to set up. Teachers can allow students to select games related to a particular topic without worry that it will be too difficult to use or have questionable content. Game choice can be sorted by subject or audience, or searched under the specific name. The games are part of a larger offering from CSERD that includes online courseware, activities, lessons, and discussions.
IXL is one of the most widely recognized and popular educational websites for literacy and math. One in eight U.S. students uses the mostly self-guided resources in math, language arts, science, social studies, and Spanish to support classwork, as homework, or for enrichment. Through the vehicle of games and drills, students pursue individualized learning needs and personal education goals without grade level limitations. Teachers can make any topic from any grade available to students who are ready, interested, or simply need a brush-up.
Math topics include everything from counting, place-value, and graphs for youngers to geometry, algebra, and pre-calculus for high school. Topics are aligned with popular curricula (such as EngageNY, Bridges, enVision, and GoMath), and there's a teacher guide to help find the right topic for each chapter. Teacher dashboards include what skills the class and each student have covered, how long was spent on each, and who needs help with what. Comprehensive analytics evaluate where students have holes in their learning and provide schools with evidence of learning for data-driven reporting. IXL can be used on the web, as an app (iOS or Android), or on Chromebooks, though there are differences in how each operates and what is offered.
IXL is great not just for school-based classrooms, but home schools and summer programs designed to keep students math-ready for their next grade level.
Math facts fluency is essential for all math subjects beyond the basics like fractions, decimals, and all higher-level math skills. When students can automate the recall of basic math facts, it frees up their cognitive resources for more complex problem solving. Lots of online programs offer assistance with math facts, but The MathFacts is one of the most organized, effective, and exciting available. It offers 25 different timed tests with varied degrees of difficulty to cover each of the four operations, or a mix of all. As students work, their tests are instantly scored and available on the teacher dashboard, with a comparison to prior-timed tests. Students also see their results as well, in what is called Trophy Case, where they win virtual awards based on their effort and progress.
Free on the web; fee for the app
XtraMath is a self-driven online option that helps students master math facts. It can be used at home or school, as homework or in after-school programs. A teacher can set up a class quickly -- the XtraMath folks say in about 10 minutes. Parents and teachers receive emailed progress reports so they can see how the student is progressing. More detailed reports are available online through the user account. XtraMath runs on mobile platforms as well as desktops, making it easy for kids to work on math facts whenever they have a few minutes.
These five math websites are best used in support of a comprehensive math curriculum, with the goal of filling in holes in student knowledge and/or enriching interests beyond the typical grade-level programs. They vary in complexity, cost, and collection of data. Which is right for you will depend upon your particular school and student needs. Let me know what you think!
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over 100 ed-tech resources, including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in ed-tech, master teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on ed-tech topics, contributor to NEA Today and TeachHUB, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.