Technology has been beneficial to the field of education in numerous ways. Algebra Curricula can be complex given the learning objectives for each grade level and the expectations of learning, especially with the new Common Core Standards. Researchers believe using technology to help with algebra curriculum can greatly improve learning and lead to academic growth and success for students.
There are different strategies that researchers are focusing on in order to make learning algebra easier for students. Some researchers have been examining how replacing traditional algebra concepts with software will improve the learning over time. The researchers took a look at the SimCal program, which has evolved over the past 15 years (Hegedus, Dalton & Tapper, 2015). The induction of this software has inspired other experts to integrate algebra and technology simultaneously. According to Hegedus, Dalton & Tapper (2015), “Our approach here was to design an integrated system of curriculum, software (SimCalc MathWorlds) and professional development based upon prior research on the design and use of representationally-rich learning environments and to utilize the affordances of classroom connectivity to enhance communication within the classroom” (p. 210). The researchers believe that this strategy will help students overcome some difficulties associated with learning algebra.
The difference between SimCalc software and others is that it goes beyond the usually technological approach of displays and clickers. This program and the enhancement of it uses a representational-enriched software as well as content curriculum to encourage students learning. After conducting a study over a year’s time with 1600 students studying algebra, it is concluded that there are benefits of using the SimCal program. Hegedus (2015) surmises, “While SimCalc is not the only technology-rich curriculum to make use of dynamic representations as a leverage to improve communication and engagement, the success of the program demonstrated in this study adds evidence to the growing literature that suggest using technology can positively affect both student learning and instructional practice” (p. 225). Integrating the SimCal software into the curriculum greatly improves the chances of students understanding the fundamentals of algebra.
The digital algebra textbook is also a strategy that educators are using in order to help with learning algebra. This is a more specific area of learning because it deals with visually impaired students and helping them succeed at learning algebra. Because digital based learning is being used increasingly in the wake of a struggling education system, many researchers are observing the impact of doing away with traditional learning strategies. For students who are visually impaired, learning mathematics proves to be particularly challenging. This is why using a digital textbook can be beneficial to the learning process. Bouck, Pei-Lin & Satsangi (2016) note that the research is limited and relatively new, but the results are promising. The digital textbook has also enhanced learning for non-visually impaired students as well. This is hopefully a trend that will continue when it comes to teaching algebra.
The use of video games has always been a go-to when it comes to incorporating technology into learning. Since children are already acclimated to the video game culture, it is ideal to incorporate video games into learning. Over the yeasts, there have been successful strategies at ensuring learning via video games is fundamentally possible. However, there has been increased attention on exploring algebra and video games. According to Evans, Norton, Chang, Deater-Deckard & Balci (2013) Studies examining the impact of game play on mathematics achievement also show that the incorporation of competition and cooperation within serious games enhances students’ achievement (p. 98). Given the sometimes complex nature of learning algebra, comprehending equations through video games is interactive and enjoyable. The idea of competition is also a thought to entertain when it comes to strategies in learning algebra. When children get a chance to compete and prove their knowledge, they are more apt to actually learn the concepts of a challenging subject. It is also important to note that the amount of time that students spend on academic videos games the more likely it leads to achievement (Evans et al, 2013). The initial validation moving forward for video games and mathematics incudes important factors. Those factors include the type of video games, the duration of the games, and the tools used to measure the learning and mathematical achievement of the students (Evans et al, 2013).
There is continued research and studies on enhancing mathematics for K-12 students. Many teacher-centered programs are introducing programs not just for students, but for teachers as well when it comes to learning algebra. Many researchers have only focused on student-centered technology versus technological advances that can better help teachers implement technology to teach algebra. Mathematics teacher education programs are taking into account the benefits of using technology as a way to insist teachers. Since algebra is known as a “filter” in education, it discourages many students from pursuing advanced course like calculus (Brown, Davis & Kulm, 2011).
Pursuing advanced level mathematics classes can lead to prestigious fields such as engineering, therefore researchers want to encourage students to invest in taking more advance-level math classes past algebra. This is the basis for the study article written by Brown, Davis & Kulm. The experts believe that the use of innovative technology-based simulations can help pre-service teachers to address equity concerns in the classroom. The researchers believes, “These simulations will provide more intensive and focused practice with diverse learners than the sporadic opportunities that might arise in classroom observations or other field-based settings. These strategies have great potential for generalization to other topic areas in mathematics and other teacher education programs” (p. 267). This is definitely a strategy that will engage both students and teachers.
Adaptive learning technology also strategized in teaching and learning algebra. One way to implement adaptive learning as a technology is to use personalized intervention for problem areas when it comes to learning. Walkington (2013) conducted a study using the Cognitive Tutor Algebra. This is an intelligent tutoring system (ITS) for students. Walkington was able to test the system on 165 students. Walkington (2013) states, “For 1 instructional unit, half of the students received normal algebra story problems, and half received matched problems personalized to their out-of-school interests in areas such as sports, music, and movies. ” (p. 932). The results indicated that the students who used the ITS were able to answer questions faster and have more accurate results (Walkington, 2013). The one skill that Walkington noticed that showed the greatest improvement amongst students was story scenarios and writing symbolic equations from those scenarios. This is undoubtedly promising when it comes to effectively engaging students with algebra.
While there is no one solution when it comes to education, it is always a best practice to test out new technologies and other strategies when it comes to learning. Simulation is one way to solve issues with learning and mathematics. Like video games, simulation involves interactive learning that can make the experience enjoyable for teachers. The use of textbooks is a major component of learning, and using digital textbooks as part of the curriculum can also improve the interaction a grasp of concepts for students. Adaptive learning per technological implementation is essential to its growth as well. Yet, ultimately as some researchers have pointed out, acclimating teachers to new forms of technology will include teaching them how to effectively facilitate with the resources.
Overall, it is no secret that algebra is challenging for the students. However, with the increased attention being placed on new educational standards like the Common core Math, educators are trying to find ways to ensure that students are succeeding in algebra and other math concepts. Curriculum is a major component of how well teachers will relay concepts and fundamentals to students. The five strategies discussed in this report have all been tested and proven to have some form of success. It will greatly help school systems to start incorporating technology into their curriculum so they are more efficient at meeting the objectives of learning algebra.
- Bouck, E. C., Pei-Lin, W., & Satsangi, R. (2016). Digital versus traditional: Secondary students with visual impairments’ perceptions of a digital algebra textbook. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (Online), 110(1), 41.
- Brown, I. A., Davis, T. J., & Kulm, G. (2011). Pre-service teachers’ knowledge for teaching algebra for equity in the middle grades: A preliminary report. The Journal of Negro Education, 80(3), 266-283,435-436.
- Evans, M. A., Norton, A., Chang, M., Deater-Deckard, K., & Balci, O. (2013). Youth and video games: Exploring effects on learning and engagement. Zeitschrift Für Psychologie/Journal of Psychology, 221(2), 98-106.
- Hegedus, S. J., Dalton, S., & Tapper, J. R. (2015). The impact of technology-enhanced curriculum on learning advanced algebra in US high school classrooms. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 63(2), 203-228.
- Walkington, C. A. (2013). Using adaptive learning technologies to personalize instruction to student interests: The impact of relevant contexts on performance and learning outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(4), 932-945.