Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Math Problem Solving Using Google Docs

Math Problem Solving In Google Docs With Grade Twos

This is a follow up post for Reflection on: Google Apps to Redefine Your Classroom. I was inspired to try math problem solving in Google Docs and I did!  


I saw James Peterson at the Google Apps for Education Summit in February. He is a secondary teacher from Ontario in a 1-to-1 setting. He uses a daily math problem using Google Forms and Blogger. Students are also encouraged to make their own daily math problems. You can see his presentation at: From Google Apps to Redefine Your Classroom. James talked about Dan Meyer who has been advocating for changing how problem solving is taught. Dan Meyer is a secondary math teacher but it is worth listening to his ideas about problem solving!

Why Use Technology? The Curriculum

MP.pngIn my opinion, traditional "word problems" already typically address three mathematical processes: communication, connections and problem solving. Depending on the problem being solved, they may include other processes as well.

Why add technology into the mix? As the Alberta curriculum states: "Technology contributes to the learning of a wide range of mathematical outcomes and enables students to explore and create patterns, examine relationships, test conjectures and solve problems." 

I like how the Learning and Technology Policy Framework explains why technology needs to be integrated into learning experiences: 

Research from the learning sciences, psychology and neuroscience provides a sound basis for shifting the focus of schools to the student through personalization and authentic learning experiences. The research is clear—students learn best when they:
  • learn in the context of the real world, where their academic studies help them make sense of the real world
  • are self-directed in their learning
  • learn collaboratively
  • exercise some choice in their learning
  • exercise some control in the pace of their learning
  • receive immediate feedback targeted to scaffold their learning
  • build on their prior knowledge base
  • learn with instructional multimedia that is interactive and expertly designed 
  • are taught by teachers who personalize their learning to address personal interests, meet personal needs and offer novelty and variety in learning
Most of these research findings are difficult to scale to all students without technology, and most are not possible to accomplish routinely without technology. The technology enables student-centred learning focused on new competencies. In turn, studies show a connection between the teaching of higher order thinking in classrooms with a region’s economic viability.

Another Reason To Move to Google Docs: Struggling Readers

I'm sure it's not just division one teachers who are challenged to find ways to support struggling readers during problem solving. We want the focus to be on math, but often the ability to read the material confidently, independently and correctly impedes this process for some students.

Using a program like Read and Write for Google takes decoding out of the equation and moves the focus back onto problem solving. It also is empowering for students as they do not have to rely on the teacher or a peer to read it to them a first or second time. They are put in control, can listen/read it as many times as necessary.

Using Read and Write for Google is also why I decided to use Google Docs rather than forms, Blogger or another of the Google Apps. 

Why Change? Potential!

One of the things I have learned about Google Apps is that you might start out at the substitution stage on the SAMR model, but the more you use Google Apps, the more likely you are to find augmentations and modifications to enhance and improve the learning experience. 

What are some of the potential changes I currently see happening as I continue to use Google Docs with math problems?

  • Students could possibly collaborate on more challenging math problems on Google Document. 
  • Activities could be provided on a class website or Schoolzone, so it could flip the classroom and/or provide activities for students who are away for extended periods of time. 
  • Inserting videos and colour photos could potentially enhance the experience. 
  • Students could receive different tasks. 
  • Students could write their own problems and share them with their peers or with peers in other schools using Blogger.
  • Students could take pictures and videos that they use to write their own problems. 
Certainly many of these things could happen without technology. Technology makes them easier and therefore more likely to happen. Technology 

Tip: Small Group First

Modelling on the Smartboard while students work is a useful strategy for both small groups and large group instruction.

Starting with small group work not only minimizes bandwidth strain but allows the teacher to problem solve easier, as is often the case when technology is used for the first time in a new way.

Doing small group work with laptops, chromebooks or netbooks is also a way to maximize limited resources. 

Useful Add-On: Doctopus

Doctopus used to be a script. It is now an add-on. It is a handy tool because it shares files to the students for you, documents go into students’ Shared With Me portion of Google Drive. You do the sharing by creating a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet will have a link to all the students’ documents. 

One Problem? Resources!

There are certainly no shortage of word problems use. What is harder to find and harder to create are photos and videos to use along with math problems. This is one of the reasons I believe collaboration is more important than ever! And collaboration is easier than ever before with Google Apps!  

Here is my attempt at using pictures I took!
I'd love to build up resources, so please leave links and ideas in the comments!