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Uses of Technology in Lower Secondary Mathematics Education

Paul Drijvers, et al.
Springer Open
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
ICME-13 Topical Surveys
[Reviewed by
Peter T. Olszewski
, on

Uses of Technology in Lower Secondary Mathematics Education, a topical survey from ICME-13, focuses on the recent uses of technology in mathematics education from an international point-of-view through practice-oriented experiences and research based evidence. The book presents three core themes:

  1. Evidence of effectiveness.
  2. Digital assessments.
  3. Communication and collaboration.

Towards the end, the survey offers to the reader suggestions for future work in technology-rich mathematics education and considers a research agenda reflecting those trends. Further, the survey gives predictions on what lower secondary mathematics education may look like in 2025 with respect to the role of digital tools in curricula, teaching, and learning. The question of how teachers integrate physical and virtual experiences to promote a deeper understanding of mathematics is also considered.

As pointed out in the introduction, there has been a wealth of research on the impact of technology in learning and teaching mathematics. Whether one is in school or in the workforce, digital technology has been growing at an exponential rate. Devices such as software-controlled engines, smart phones, tablets, and GPS rely on mathematical algorithms that are invisible to us. These technologies have provided opportunities for teachers and student learning. Algorithms play a vital role in these technologies and the implications of these technology-rich products have the potential to influence the nature of mathematics education and the concepts and skills that students will attain and retain.

Section 2 presents the State of the Art on the use of technology for teaching and learning. Section 2.1 provides a summary of the quantitative and qualitative evidence of effect, Section 2.2 discusses digital assessments, Sections 2.3 and 2.4 discuss the options for communication, collaboration, and teachers’ professional development. Section 3 offers the reader some future thinking.

In Section 2.1.3, “Evidence for Effect: Reviewing Qualitative Studies,” digital technology is used for student group work by using manipulatives in digital animations of physical objects. Anabousy and Tabach (2016) took three pairs of seventh-grade students, provided them with a GeoGebra applet and asked: Do you think there are relations between areas of squares built on the sides of an obtuse/acute triangle? Through this discovery project, students were able to deduce that in a right triangle \(a^2+b^2=c^2\). Another study, performed by Maschietto (2016), considers a wooden model and the collaboration discussion in which the model is reconstructed on an interactive whiteboard. Qualitative research has highlighted the use of digital technologies and has inspired the development of self-discovery projects, which are especially needed and essential for middle school students.

Over the history of teaching mathematics, assessment of students has been predominantly summative pencil and paper assessments. Section 2.2.1, “Digital Summative Assessment,” Stacey and Wiliam (2013) provide us with a strong argument for assessment through technology:

  1. The delivery of arguments.
  2. The production argument.
  3. The feedback argument.
  4. The scoring argument.
  5. The adaptive argument.

After teaching hybrid College Algebra courses at the Pennsylvania State University, I feel that these were great points to make; they provide a more streamlined approach for assigning and grading homework and assessments.

In regards to the communication section of the survey, the book points out there are two types of interaction between communication and technology: communication through technology and communication of technology. As pointed out on page 21, these two types of communication can occur simultaneously and they can happen either in the classroom in a face-to-face or online setting. Section 2.4, “Communication and Collaboration: Professional Development,” provides several examples of how teachers can gain further insight into learning with technology in their mathematics classrooms and why these ideas should be presented and discussed in professional development meetings. Neill and Maguire (2006) present an interesting and inspiring study regarding the professional development for the New Zealand CAS pilot. “Teachers and students reported changes to a more student-led, interactive, exploratory, collaborative, discussion-based style of teaching and learning.”

With more virtual learning environments (VLEs) than ever before, such as Skype, email, Adobe connect, and Kaltura, we can not only teach students but also hold collaborative sessions among teachers.

Section 3 presents the final summary of the book, which is a very positive outlook on technology in mathematics education. We as teachers can’t help but notice the ever-growing amount of technology and pressure to use technology in our classrooms, whether it is being asked to pilot a VLE, try teaching an online course, or wanting to try MyMathLab, WebAssign, Knewton, or similar online homework software. This book provides us with an outlook to the year 2025. After reading the book and doing some personal thinking, I agree with the outlook that technology in the classroom will only continue to grow. While technology should not serve a replacement for solid teachers, it can only enhance the learning experience of our students.

Peter Olszewski is a Mathematics Lecturer at The Pennsylvania State University, The Behrend College, an editor for Larson Texts, Inc. in Erie, PA, and is the 362nd Chapter Advisor of the Pennsylvania Alpha Beta Chapter of Pi Mu Epsilon. His Research fields are in mathematics education, Cayley Color Graphs, Markov Chains, and mathematical textbooks. He can be reached at Outside of teaching and textbook editing, he enjoys playing golf, playing guitar and bass, reading, gardening, traveling, and painting landscapes.

See the table of contents in the publisher's webpage.