Communication Technology in Learning Mathematics

Introduction

Before any discussion about computer system in schools, an understanding should be made between schools, learning and computer technology. During the introduction of computers to schools, there was a conception that students were supposed to be “taught” by computers. This means that a teacher was to be replaced by a computer. In late 1970’s and 1980’s there was increase of computers because they were affordable and the ratio between students and computers decreased. During this period there was an increase in computer software such as the simulation software and modeling software. The support that computers give during learning is called computer supported learning. These computers are either used to support learning or to maintain a learning scenario. There are five ways that are presumed by ICT to establish and sustain effective learning environments: These are real world problems, scaffolding, feedback, reflection and guidance, local and global communities and extending teacher learning capabilities.

The idea of effective teaching of mathematics is based on the integration of appropriate ICT tools. This then leads to the fully participation of the students in learning. For example, the ICT tools that are available for mathematics are hand held devices or the interactive white boards. Whatever, the tools used there are some sorts of shortcomings that usually face the students and derail the learning capabilities of the associated students. This means that there is poor organization and allocation of schedule to ICT tools to concerned mathematics students. These issues are:

Impact on student achievement

The good or positive impact of ICT use in mathematics has not been fully proven or taken into consideration. This is because there is poor advocacy from the concerned institutions and specifically in the development of mathematics departments. This means that in general and after a lot of impact studies, the impact whether poor or good (with the student use of ICT) usually remains difficult to gauge and measure and it is still open to reasonable debate and its related discussion. But, there is a positive impact on the development of ICT in relation to mathematics when linked to pedagogy. This means that, when specific ICT tools are employed to complement teachers existing pedagogical philosophies then the student will have a positive outcome.

The ‘computer aided instruction’ (CAI) through research and past findings has been seen to slightly improve the student performance on multiple choice and standardized testing in some specific areas. CAI which mostly refers to student self study or mathematical tutorial on PCs has shown that it has slightly improved student test scores on some certain reading and mathematical skills. Although, there are certain improvements there is still a debate whether it’s a real improvement or the capability of the student could increase if such ICT tools were not employed in the first place. (David, 2004)

Another issue is that when the ICT tools have been planned in relation to this subject certain aspects should be taken into consideration. This then translates that ICT tools are less effective when setting goals for their use fails. This is due to the fact that the ICT tools that are employed to teach other subjects such as history should not bee used to teach mathematics, since their application in teaching mathematics will really confuse the student. This is because there are various tools that are used in different subjects and this may cause confusion to the concerned student. There are periods and times of tension between the traditional versus ‘new’ pedagogies and standardized testing. The traditional which were transmission type pedagogies are perceived as more effective during the preparation for standardized testing. This usually tends to measure the results of teachings practices, than are more “constructivist” pedagogical styles. (Richard, 2004)

There is also the mismatch between the methods that are used to weigh the effects and type of learning that is promoted in certain specific uses of ICT. There are certain cases when a certain ICT tool is employed and there is positive outcomes while on the other hand these maybe a problem. Most of the time wrong tools are used to assist on some teaching but it’s wrongly used. This confuses the concerned student.

Some computer soft wares are specifically designed such that even when a mathematical question is typed it automatically gives the answer. This means that the learner will not be able to know step by step how the answer was obtained. These mean that all activities where ICT is employed should be weighed with its value noted. (David, 2004)

The employment of ICTs should be specified in different school subjects. In recent cases simulations and modeling have shown positive result in both sciences and mathematics. Others like word processing have helped in the development of language of the student. This then implies that when the right tools are employed, they specifically assist in specific areas. The use of these ICT tools will also depend on the areas that are located. For example, through research it has been shown that those students who do most of their work within school environment have better results than those who use the ICT in other areas. This is because students who use their tools outside are often associated with gaming.

Impact on student motivation

As observe by Sheila (2002) ICT usually motivates both the students and teachers. There is a general belief that the presence of ICT tools makes the student to be motivated and usually learns easily. To other students and to those who are still new in certain aspects of the ICT tool, they will feel uncomfortable. This is because the other students will feel like the disadvantaged group and they will either try to shy away from the tool or like it.

The access of ICT tool increases the confidence of tackling an issue i.e. when a student is at disposal of a calculator at home, it will make him/her more comfortable when using the calculator in the school environment. This makes the student flexible and hence develops the student confidence. The areas where the computers and other ICT machines are located also make the learning of mathematics important. For example computers that are usually in the classrooms make the student to have full and frequent access to the machine. This leads to ‘higher order’ skills compared to placing the computers in laboratories. This means that to avail laptops or movable computers (computer in wheels) and other digital devices such as mobiles will have positive impacts. (Sheila, 2002)

Sometimes a tutor can give assignments to students and the students are unable to access the required ICT tools. This then means that there should be integration between the ICT devices that are within the school and outside the school. Also school hours should be flexible in ICT areas so as to enable the disadvantaged student to maximize the use of the available resources. The other issue is when the students should be introduced to such things as computers. The age factor is a big issue. This means that exposure of computers to younger students is not advisable. The importance of certain ICT tools should be introduced in certain ways that will not convenience the future development of the student.

During the recent past there has been the development of distance learning and online learning. Some studies have shown that those students who are doing online classes pass their exams better when compared to campus or traditional method. This is attributed to the conditions that the online students are supposed to finish their homework using certain specific publisher tutorial. This then means that interactive homework tools develop the students better compared to textbook assignments. This has led to the decision that most institutions should ensure that all students use the online tutorials to accomplish their assignments. (Richard, 2004)

The possibility of solving application based problems on computers is not trivial. The method of floating point numbers that is frequently associated with pure mathematics becomes complicated when using computers. This is because an understanding should be there so as to be able to represent numbers, rounding errors and their tolerance. There are certain software that has limits allowing a user to enter certain data and its manipulation, but, others don’t.

There are also issues that are associated to graphing calculators. The issue of teachers giving students the privilege to use graphing calculators on state assessments usually has a direct effect on the number of graphing calculators and also the time taken during usage in classrooms instructions. An example is Texas State in United States where there is usually a dramatic increase of calculators during the end of course exam in Algebra 1. Usually these calculators are expensive; this then makes the need of states to provide funding for purchasing these calculators and also training of the teachers for their effective use. This is to reduce the negative effects to those students who can’t afford their own. (Richard, 2004)

What are the implications of using computers? The use of computers in classrooms will not change the amount of mathematics that is learned and the type of mathematics. Teachers have to undergo a training and support in using a computer as an ICT tool. This means that both students and teachers needs expensive software’s and hardware’s all with different regulations on their use. The issue which arises is how the use of these computers will increase the achievement of the students? This then means that the access of computers will enable the closing of gap between those students who use the technology and those who are derived. Also the number of computers within a certain specific location will determine the frequency of its use. Those computers that are found in classrooms environment will give equal chances to those students in that class. (Carol, 2003)

This then appears that there are some substantial and perhaps an upward trend in mismatch between the developmental level of students and the nature and level of mathematics they are been taught. This is a very serious design flaw which is in the math curriculum. This also leads to the need of more research and also the currently available research needs to be examined to see what light it throws on this topic.

Students who are using certain ICT tools have difficulties in understanding them. There are certain soft wares from certain manufactures that are not conclusive. The instructions that provide the classes and other facilities also differ a lot. There tutorials may be complicated and requires a lot of follow up from the manufacturers. This will inconvenience those students who want to work on their free time since the soft wares may be located in a region that is hard to access. (Carol, 2003)

Conclusion

Mathematics being a language needs some improvement by writing, reading, speaking, listening and frequently using it. This then means that the curriculum should be synchronized since it’s used by various other disciplines and subject areas. This means that calculators and computers are some powerful tools that usually aid in carrying out mathematical procedures implying that they are faster and accurate than the people who use them. The mathematical calculations is improved by the use of these ICT tools routinely and applied in any subject that is related to mathematics. Mathematical education is greatly improved through the increase and the focus on problem posing a conceptual understanding on things that people can do better than the associated machines which leads to decreasing on the emphasis on carrying out procedures which the machines can do better than individuals.

Learning mathematics is a process that takes a lot of time and energy. Therefore, all materials and tools available in the form of ICT should be deployed unconditionally. This means that those students who are less privileged should be accorded the utmost chances by the school either providing such tools or the institution sponsors and state organizations.

References

Adrian, O. (2004), Teaching Mathematics Using ICT, (New York, Continuum International Publishing Group).

Albert, M. (2006), Teaching Mathematics Using Computers, (New York, McGraw-Hill International).

Carol, G. (2003), Computers and Mathematics, (London, Macmillan Publishers).

David, P. (2004), Teaching Secondary Mathematics with ICT, (New York, McGraw-Hill International).

Peter, K. (1999), Relationship Between Computers and Mathematics, (California, John Publishing Co.).

Richard, K. (2004), Future of Mathematics, (Boston, Macmillan Publishers).

Sheila, R. (2002), ICT tools and Association with Computers, (London, Longman Publishers).