Since the widespread shift to virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, math teachers worldwide have transitioned to remote or virtual learning platforms. Online platforms might feel less personal and more limited. Still, they offer unique possibilities to create the same safe, collaborative spaces students experience in the face-to-face classroom. Here are just a few significant pedagogical challenges along with tips, tools and strategies for shifting to online math education.
Create a Collaborative, Problem-Centered Community of Learners.
Face-to-face math classrooms are all about interaction. Students brainstorm to find answers and help each other think through activities and problems. However, digital platforms remove much of that camaraderie and collaboration.
By offering students time and space to get to know each other, math teachers can promote a sense of community and create a safe space for exploration. Teachers build relationships with and between students by encouraging them to talk about their home lives, pets, organizations and personal interests. Students who are comfortable sharing with others are more likely to share their work and engage in collaborative problem-solving. Students can take these interactions a step further with online tools like Notability, which allow them to share videos, notes, data and finished work with teachers and classmates.
Take Advantage of Students' Surroundings by Encouraging Real-World Application.
Encouraging students to collaborate and share also provides fodder for the real-world application of mathematical concepts. A 2018 study of digital pedagogy found that students understand the significance of a math background better when they see how it impacts situations in their own lives and the world around them.
Digital learning offers opportunities for students to engage with mathematical processes and problems in their homes and communities. They visualize math problems when doubling the recipe for a family meal, measuring their room for carpeting or creating word problems including names of people and pets they know. Education World offers several resources for real-world mathematical applications.
Provide More Detailed Explanations for Each Step of Concepts, Theorems, Processes or Examples.
In face-to-face classes, teachers build off a textbook page, handout or other physical tools for explaining lessons. A classroom of students focusing on the same tangible item allows teachers to refer to these tools as they explain or review concepts.
During online courses, however, students might not have access to printed materials or manipulatives. They may not be particularly inclined to give the computer screen their undivided attention. When students are not present in the classroom, teachers do not have the advantage of picking up the small signals from students that indicate confusion or a lack of understanding. While there are various digital tools for demonstrating problems and concepts, teachers must remember explanations require greater detail to keep all students engaged.
Tools like Flipgrid allow teachers to demonstrate their work in a whiteboard-style app that mimics face-to-face classroom interactions. They also allow teachers to record lessons for students to return to as often as necessary.
Allow Students to Explore Resources Outside of the Classroom.
When teaching virtually, teachers cannot always give individual attention. There are high-quality, reliable apps, programs, websites and videos to help students strengthen skills, review concepts, or practice what they've learned in class.
For independent review and practice, teachers might recommend Khan Academy, a well-known platform for math videos that explain and demonstrate math skills and concepts. Apps like Photomath offer students one-on-one guidance for solving math problems on their own. Students and parents use their device's camera to scan printed or handwritten math problems and receive step-by-step animated explanations showing how to find solutions.
If you would like to strengthen your mathematics teaching skills or investigate best research and leadership practices, consider pursuing an online graduate degree program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.