Providing Students with Further Opportunities for Learning Maths

It’s that time of year again when term tests are coming closer and you remind your students of the importance of revision and regular study. In the case of maths, I find myself continuously emphasising the need for students to practise problems to improve their skills. I prefer to call it math practise as opposed to studying maths. But is there a gap between what we imagine our students do when reviewing material in their own time and what is being done?  In many cases, students need support and structure on how to learn/practise maths independently and it is something they should be prompted to do on a regular basis.

Recently, I asked some of my senior students to complete a self-reflective questionnaire to consider their own learning processes and progress and how this could be improved in class and at home. The responses were very interesting and I had to commend the students for their honesty. One statement students had to consider on the questionnaire was ‘ I have clear and effective strategies for reviewing math topics in my own time when preparing for class tests or term exams.’ Out of the class of students not one student selected ‘Yes’, with the majority only agreeing ‘Somewhat’ and about one third saying ‘No’.

From this, I began a discussion with the class on how they could be supported better and we all agreed that using our school Office 365 and the included applications. Using our school’s Office 365 expands learning opportunities beyond the classroom. We use a OneNote notebook which is added to every day in class with worked examples of maths problems and other notary information. This means that even if students are absent or may struggle to take down notes in class, they know that this information is still available to them later by accessing it online. Often it is students from the class, who use the classroom computer to add to the notebook, giving me more opportunity to monitor the class. Any information added is automatically saved and synced. The notebook is a valuable resource for reviewing and reflecting on topics discussed in class. For more on OneNote visit www.onenoteforteachers.com .

Annotating on a image or PDF and using the draw tools in OneNote

Annotating on a image or PDF and using the draw tools in OneNote

For students who are less familiar with navigating OneNote notebooks, we have organised the topics we study into a shared OneDrive folder. Teachers and students can avail of 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage with Office 365 for Education. This is avialble for free to schools.  In our shared folder, the students can access weblinks that take them directly to a certain section or page within the class OneNote notebook. The ability to add links to OneDrive is a more recent feature and one that is proving extremely useful for organising and sharing web content.

Adding weblinks to OneDrive for storing and sharing

Adding weblinks to OneDrive for storing and sharing

As well as having our OneNote notebook, students like to learn from short videos and online practice activities which instantly tell them if they are correct or incorrect. Students enjoy recieving instant feedback or hints when trying out problems on their own. For this, I set up a class group on Khan Academy, allowing me to recommend various maths practise activities to individual students or the whole class. This allows for differentiation where students may need to engage in further practicse or to try some more challenging activities. Although students can see the activities I suggest in their Khan Academy accounts, we also place links to different Khan Academy videos and activities to the class OneDrive folder. In terms of reinforcing learning, the students find Khan Academy a powerful learning resource to support their learning at home when assistance from peers or the teacher is not available. The benefit of creating classes and coaching your students using Khan Academy means that you can gather feedback on their progress. This will let you know when students have attempted different activities and their success with each.To learn more about creating class groups with Khan Academy visit https://khanacademy.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/204850690-Create-a-class .

Recommending practise activities to students using Khan Academy

Recommending practise activities to students using Khan Academy

Lastly, I am a huge fan of Office Mix, and now so are my students. Office Mix allows  PowerPoint 2016 users to create and edit screencasts on their computer. Using the Office Mix add-in for PowerPoint, my students have recorded themselves solving maths problems dusing lessons. Once created the screen recordings can be converted to a video and uploaded to our class OneDrive folder or Office Mix. Students are very intrigued with being able to hear their peerz explain how to apply a concept to a problem or complete a sum and being able to watch this in their own time.  So far, I have found increased engagement with content when it has been authored by the class group themselves. Additionally, Khan Academy videos and activities can be embedded into presentations using the Office Mix add-in. For more on Office Mix visit www.mixforteachers.com or read a previous post here.

The use of these tools, Office 365, OneNote, OneDrive, Office Mix and Khan Academy have had a significant impact on teaching and learning activities in and outside of my math lessons. The maths text book is a resource we use but not the only resource!  I can offer my students an array of opportunities to practise skills and explore concepts independently. So now that the Christmas tests are fast approaching, students will be further encouraged to use the variety of resources available to them to practise and prepare.

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