I have made a concerted effort throughout the content chapters to point to ways that technology might possibly be used to teach various mathematics topics. Calculator and computer icons point to these discussions. Further, at the end of each chapter are suggested websites where interactive applets or other computer-based resources can be found. This chapter is designed for a different purpose. Here I have offered perspectives on the use of technology in more global ways. Nearly half of the chapter is devoted to calculators. The computer discussion revolves around tools for doing mathematics in contrast with programs that attempt to provide instruction or practice. Suggestions for finding both software and other resources on the Internet are also provided.
Impact of Technology
Technology really does influence how and what mathematics is taught. Some mathematics that we used to teach no longer needs to be taught. This is more true at the secondary level but certainly computation has been impacted by the calculator. Most importantly, in some areas we can teach much better than we could in the past. Calculators again provide the obvious examples but good tools on the computer make a huge impact on geometry, statistics, and function explorations. Finally, we can now teach mathematics that was impossible in the past. These examples are almost all found in the middle and high school curriculum. Graphing calculators open up a lot of great topics for the middle grade student.
Calculators in the Classroom
I continue to find it necessary to convince novice teachers that the calculator is a good thing in the classroom. The calculator discussion lists five reasons why calculators should be available at all times (see T-58) and addresses four myths or fears commonly brought to the debate over calculator use (see T-59). The section ends with my personal conviction that calculators belong on the desk of every child, at every grade, every day! Note that this does not diminish my belief that basic facts and computational skills are important. Nor does it mean that the teacher cannot conduct lessons and activities where the calculator is not permitted.
The final section on calculators highlights a list of 14 features of graphing calculators that make them essential or valuable in the middle school classroom.
My personal bias is that the most effective use of the computer in the K-8 classroom is found in tool software rather than instructional packages. I have discussed these tools under the headings of electronic manipulatives for numeration, geometry tools (the most significant of which are the dynamic geometry programs), probability and data analysis tools, and function graphers. Examples of all of these are found in appropriate places throughout the text. Instructional software has improved considerably in recent years. However, very few programs in this category have gotten me excited. I find that interactive applets directed toward a small conceptual area of the curriculum are more effective. Since the on-line use of most of these applets is free, they are accessible to all of your students and to any teacher with an Internet connection in the classroom.
I have included a short section on selecting software and have offered nine criteria that can be used in review. These criteria can be used by your students as they review software outside of the classroom.
In this edition, a listing of online resources is found at the end of every chapter. In this general chapter on technology, the listings are grouped under the headings of Professional Information, Teacher Resources, and Applets. These are all well-established sites that are useful places for your students to begin their exploration of the Web for resources in mathematics education. For other chapters, the sites suggested are more specific to the content of the chapter.