December 1, 2017
Cowley Math goes Low-Tech
As the use of technology increases in the field of education, the mathematics faculty at Cowley College are finding a balance between the computers that can solve any mathematics equation to utilizing low technology techniques to engage the learners Activities called “Bungee Barbie”, “Fishing for Polynomials”, or “I notice and I wonder” are being taught to help learners obtain a deeper conceptual understanding about math. Math should be viewed as not just something you do to arrive at a solution. Math is a creative and open process that requires reflection, perseverance, and what educators like to call “productive struggle.”
Classroom design is one tool used to help student engagement. The College has created a “mobile” classroom in the lower level of the library, using a Perkins Leadership Grant. Mobile because all the furniture moves so that instructors can engage learners with active learning strategies. The room is also equipped with hand-held wipe boards to help learners see math as an open and creative process. These boards allow learners to sketch out an idea, to look at it, to try and erase or re-do, and reflect. They allow for a conversation to happen within a group of students, so that not just one person is solving a problem; instead it is a team project and everyone on the team may have a different perspective about what is really going on in a particular situation.
Another way instructors help learners to engage with mathematics is by using manipulatives. These hand-on tools help demonstrate a strategy. Things such as Post-Its, plastic squares, colored pencils, rulers, graph paper, etc. are other low-tech tools being utilized by math instructors.
These tools allow learners the opportunity to be creative to demonstrate their reasoning to other learners and to convince others that their logic and reasoning is correct.
No longer is it acceptable for learners of mathematics to just plug and solve problems. As life and work environments become more complex, our workforce will need people who are skilled in critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration. Mathematics is the perfect conduit for these skills. By utilizing these low-tech ways in the classroom, instructors are achieving these goals.