Teaching Math in the Age of Technology
How does teaching math in the age of technology change the students' common feelings of fear and anxiety associated with learning math concepts?
Using Online Resources to Change the Way Kids Learn Math
Why do Kids Struggle with Learning Math?
Anxiety is contagious. Without intending to, many parents pass on their negative past experiences with learning math by saying things like “I’m so bad at math” or “math was never my strong suit”. If children hear these types of statements enough when they are very young, by the time they are grade-school age and ready for their first math lessons, they’ve already got negative mental associations with the general concept of math. Instead of approaching math problems with the anticipation and excitement that they usually feel when learning a new skill, kids often approach math with trepidation and worry that they won’t do well. So, since half the battle in learning new things is having good mental preparation and a “can do” attitude…right out of the gate, they’re starting with a handicap.
Changing the Way Kids Feel about Math
So how does teaching math in the age of technology change this dynamic of fear and anxiety when it comes to learning the core concepts of math? Well, a person only needs to stop and take a quick look around their world to notice how much more of a role math plays in the lives of today’s kids as opposed to previous generations. We are surrounded by technology, which means we are surrounded by math. Even if they don’t realize it, the computer’s inner workings and 1’s and 0’s are etched into kids’ brains and they have the capacity to intuitively grasp math principles in ways that their parents probably never could. Teaching math to tech-savvy kids is a whole new ballgame.
One thing is for sure about children, or anyone else for that matter: If they enjoy doing something, they will want to do more of it, regardless of the effort and struggle it takes to do it. When kids are interested and engaged in doing a fun, yet challenging activity, their main concern is not necessarily how hard the activity is, but rather how long they will get to continue doing it. Of course, their next concern is proudly showing off when they’ve mastered the activity to a certain level.
Collaboration and Competition Instead of “Instruction Anxiety”
Teaching math to kids who are uninterested and bored is a highly frustrating endeavor. A slight change in the child’s perception of the overall learning experience, however, can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of the selected teaching methods, and the frustration level of the teacher. The immediate recognition and reward that many online math programs offer is one of the major attractions for kids and changes their ideas about math’s usefulness and applications in everyday life. Obviously, teaching in an environment filled with kids who actually look forward to being in the room is a much more satisfying experience.
When kids “light up”, they begin to absorb information more readily and quickly. With online learning programs, children focus on understanding how to play a game, solve a puzzle, answer questions and get rewards. Their interest is on winning and as a by-product their minds are taking in all of the concepts behind the winning strategies.
Self-Regulation and Review
When teaching math becomes collaborative instead of overbearing and stern, children respond in a whole different way. Kids like to feel that they have at least some control over certain parts of their life and when they see themselves excelling in a way that doesn’t feel like too much of a hardship, it will make them want to do more. Math is something that clearly needs constant repetition in order to simply remember the basics. Building onto that basic foundation requires a bit more effort, so it’s important that children are engaged beyond just learning how to memorize numbers by rote. Being able to play games and interact with their learning tools via a user-friendly interface, helps kids to feel in control and as if they are a partner in their learning environment instead of just being told what to do.
With online learning tools, as kids track their own progress and earn rewards for each level of increased proficiency, learning math switches gears from being viewed as a necessary hardship and chore to being embraced as an enjoyable challenge. One that with a bit of perseverance, creativity - and a good internet connection! - can be easily overcome.