Maths teaching and Tech. What’s the future

The Dynamic Digital Technologies for Dynamic Mathematics Project was developed by UCL. Its raison d’etre was to research the impact on teachers’ mathematical knowledge, and associated mathematics pedagogical practice, on their teaching of KS3 topics with dynamic technology. The report summarises the outcomes of the Nuffield Foundation funded 2014–17 project ‘Developing teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching and classroom use of technology through engagement with key mathematical concepts using dynamic digital technology’. The Nuffield Foundation is an endowed charitable trust that aims to improve social well-being in the widest sense. It funds research and innovation in education and social policy and also works to build capacity in education, science and social science research.

Dynamic Digital Technologies for Dynamic Mathematics

The definition of such technology used is:

That which offers various mathematical representations that both teachers and pupils can both manipulate and link.

The point of this is to help engage with the underlying mathematical concepts and relationships. The context that was chosen was Cornerstone Maths – a common resource for teaching KS3 maths with dynamic mathematical technology.

This project wasn’t just about the pedagogy itself but the team aimed to develop a professional development toolkit that could help to support London teachers initially. After all, there is a desire and a need for students to really have the opportunity and desire to engage with underlying mathematical concepts and their relationships.

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Just recently, an executive summary and associated book on this topic was published with some interesting findings and implications for the teaching of mathematics at secondary level. Certainly, revisiting the role of tech within teaching and learning is always useful. Although access to tech is much easier than it ever was, there does seem to be a barrier. That is teachers having the opportunity for sustained professional development. They do need cycles in PD that scaffold their effective use of dynamic mathematics. That is a major recommendation.

Another problem is that those in initial teacher education are often tentative in their approach to Dynamic Maths Technologies.  Without support and realistic expectations, new teachers and trainee teachers can feel disappointed and not particularly reflective about the learnings. The project also discovered that it took a minimum of two years for teachers to become confident with DMT. Therefore a department cannot expect the embedding of tech to happen quickly. Four to five years is the norm. Therefore school leadership also has to be supportive under the circumstances. Learning, competency and risk-taking all take time to develop.

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In addition the project also drew the conclusion that government and its agencies could offer better sign posting and more effective teaching practices within DMT in secondary maths. This may well involve the National Centre for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics and the D of E funded Maths Hub Programme. What is probably needed is successful models for school-based professional development that can be easily disseminated.

The main recommendations are:

* Personalised and sustained professional learning within a supportive professional environment.

* Time for self reflection

* Opportunities to deepen and strengthen the quality of their teaching with DMT

* Attention to what can be turn about rapid turnover events at KS3.

* Teachers should be supported to use DMT from the outset of their training

* Support should also be given through the early years of teaching.

For more information about one of the authors, Dr. Alison Clark please read our interview with her on the Maths Scholars blog, called Tech and Maths Education.

For more information:

Dynamic Digital Technologies for Dynamic Mathematics: Implications fort teachers’ knowledge and practice. Executive Summary

Alison Clark Wilson and Celia Hoyles UCL IOE Press April 2017

Dynamic Digital Technologies for Dynamic Mathematics: Final Report

Alison Clark Wilson and Celia Hoyles UCL IOE Press September2017

So, if you’ve been considering becoming a Maths Teacher, what are you waiting for?  Get into teaching today.