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The Cell Phone May Be the Next Math Lab

July 19, 2007

Mobile phones can be used for a lot more than simply making calls. They serve as cameras, game consoles, music players, and much more. Now, they can be used for teaching and learning mathematics — as graphing calculators, equation solvers, and function sketchers, and curve fitters.

Developed by Michal Yerushalmy, professor of mathematics education, and computer science students Arik Weizman and Zohar Shavit of the University of Haifa, these math applications can be installed on most cell phones — enabling the devices to operate like computers. The phones can then perform mathematical functions that are useful at different levels, from elementary school geometry to high school calculus.

The researchers say that the use of cell-phone-based math applications means that students would no longer be dependent on the availability of classroom computers for data collection and analysis or for exploring mathematical concepts. Math lessons would become as accessible as the nearest cell phone.

"I believe that mathematics needs to be learned in creative ways, and not by memorization and repetition," Yerushalmy says. "Just as physics and biology labs teach through experimentation, I believe that there should also be math labs, where learning is experiential."

In addition, the use of cell phones in this fashion would help create a community of math learners. The applications would enable users to send graphs and formulas to one another as text messages, allowing them to work together to solve problems, which can involve any number of people in a shared learning process.

A pilot project, recently completed by Galit Botzer of Haifa's Faculty of Education, evaluated students' use of these mathematical applications. As part of the research, students recorded simple dynamic events, such as a dripping faucet or a bus pulling away from a bus stop, with their cell phones' video cameras. They were then instructed to turn their video clips into mathematical models using the applications already on their cell phones.

Students "did indeed use text messaging to send one another information, questions, and comments at different times and from different places," Botzer said. "Our next step is to engage in more intensive research, and to develop additional, unique applications for cellular phones."

Additional information about math applications for mobile phones can be found at

Source: University of Haifa, July 10, 2007; Math4Mobile

Start Date: 
Thursday, July 19, 2007