99 Red Triangles

June 1, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Posted in Content Area Literacy | 3 Comments

(By Jessica D’Agostino)

How many triangles can you draw on a white board … fifteen, twenty, or even one hundred? Will this be enough to convince your students that every triangle on that board has an interior angle sum of 180 degrees? This would be great if every student thought, if one hundred triangles have an interior angle sum of 180 degrees, then all triangles will have an interior angle sum of 180 degrees. However, what about the student that raises their hand and says “what about the one hundred and one triangles; how do we know it will have an interior angle sum of 180 degrees?” In this scenario, the teacher has a huge problem! The teacher cannot fit one more triangle on the board, and showing a proof of Euclid’s interior angle theorem is just too complicated for a middle school student. It is here when technology becomes necessary. Through tools like Geogebra, a free mathematical program that allows the user to make an unlimited number of geometrical figures, students can create an infinite number of different triangles. This gives students the freedom to explore on their own the interior angle sum of a triangle; where they will find the interior sum of the infinite amount of triangles is 180 degrees.

Today’s students are growing up in a world where everything is done with technology. They are naturally equipped with the skills and understanding of new developments in technology, where most of today’s teachers are not. I believe this is where the controversy of using technology in the classroom lies. Many teachers do not understand or do not wish to understand the ever changing technology. However, this may be the key to reaching every student. Sir Ken Robinson, in a video by the RSA Animate group, tells us students today are living in the most stimulated time in history. Their attention is being pulled by computers, TVs, video games, and other technology, but we are punishing them for not being able to pay attention. The students are being punished for focusing on their technologies, rather than on the lectures being given by teacher. However, why would the student want to focus on lecture, when they respond so much better to technology? It is here where the struggle between students and teachers lies. In every aspect of each student’s life they have access to technology, except at school. By adding technology to our classrooms, we may be able to reach students on their own level just like they can be reached outside of the classroom. This then requires our teachers to be familiar with technology and the ways it can be affectively used in the classroom.

One area where technology may be useful is in content area literature. Since there is no way to guarantee every student reads at the same level, the textbook is not always an appropriate resource. Textbooks cater to one reading level, however, through technology teachers can use computers and the internet to find additional resources to cater to many different reading levels. Additionally, since textbook companies like Holt McDougal offer online support for their textbooks, students can now use their textbooks on their own time and receive help outside the classroom in the form of additional practice problems, additional lecture time, and practice quizzes. Without this technology, students are restricted to reading the textbooks and the limited number of practice problems at the end of each chapter.

It is apparent that technology can help students in many areas of our classroom, but does this mean our teachers will adapt to the ever-changing technological world and stay current with their students? Will teachers see technology as a greater distraction? Finally, will the gap between student focus on technology and student focus on lecture become even greater without teachers adapting to the current technological trends?



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  1. I agree completely with what you are saying here Jess. I believe technologies such as geogebra help the students visualize what are they learning. Another great technology for students is Wolfram alpha. Here the students can type in any math problem and the computer will spit the answer back to them. The great part about this technology isn’t that the students get the answer right away but it breaks down every step and shows the kids how to do the problem. This is a great way for students to learn and analyze a problem step by step and see how to arrive at the right answer. Another great technology students can use for math is Maple 12.
    Maple is a commercial computer algebra system where students can learn to write code and have the computer do the work for them. This can be important for students to show them that complex math problems are not always done by hand. Computers and technology are a growing part in the world and mathematicians use these thing to their advantage. Both of these technologies can be used as forms of literacy because it gets the students looking at math in a real world setting. Literacy isn’t just reading it is being able to interpret information which is why these are both great items for literacy in a mathematics classroom.

  2. I also agree with Jessica in that teachers need to be up-to-date on technologies that today’s students use throughout their lives, except, of course, in school, and that to engage students, they need to be able to incorporate these into their everyday curricula.
    What better way to practice literacy than to use these new forms of communication to incentivize students to improve their literacy skills by writing better, reading without struggling, and communicating more effectively in general. Encouraging students to text complete sentences instead of emoticons and shorthand letter combinations is a first step. Using tweets and short texts as “note-taking” may also be an effective skill that students can adapt to easily. (Charlotte Gray, QuickTag)
    However, this technique is fraught with drawbacks. “Although text messaging may seem like an opportunity for socially anxious children to reach out, is it really helpful for them to hide behind the comfort of a cell phone? Children need to learn how to communicate with each other face to face in order to master the skills necessary to surviving in todays world. Even if children are socially anxious, they should not hide from whatever it is that is causing them anxiety, like face to face communication.” (Piester, Wood, and Bell)
    Using other forms of technology to incorporate literacy into the classroom can be difficult, but the innovative energetic teacher can find sites like Geogebra in which students must read to understand.

  3. Just what exactly really stimulated u to write “99 Red Triangles | Developing Literacy
    in MST”? I reallyreally enjoyed the blog post!
    Thanks for the post ,Nigel

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