The integration of technology into curriculum has been significantly increased over the past few years. The beneficial effects of using instructional software to teach students are overwhelming. Software tools support the learning process by providing opportunities for additional practice or instruction, using games that motivate and excite students, and allowing teachers to plan dynamic, effective lessons. It is important to note that instructional software is designed specifically to assist with the teaching process, not replace the teacher altogether (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p.77). There are five types of instructional software that are classified by the teaching function that they are designed to assist: drill and practice, tutorials, simulations, instructional games, and problem solving. In the math curriculum, some of these software functions are more applicable than others. Ultimately, a software tool is only going to be useful if it is incorporated into the lesson effectively. “Each software function serves a different purpose during learning and, consequently, has its own appropriate integration strategies” (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p.77).
Drill and Practice software is very practical for a math teacher to incorporate into the curriculum. There are countless websites that offer students ample opportunities to practice skills and drill through example problems. Drill and practice software ultimately replaces the necessity for worksheets and excessive homework problems. A huge benefit for using this type of software is that students receive immediate feedback. Students are motivated to master a skill efficiently while working at their own pace in a private setting. Since it is so important for students to have a solid foundation of prerequisite skills, drill and practice software is extremely useful in math education. A couple of good websites that provide drill and practice opportunities include IXL Math Practice and Xtra Math.
While the use of tutorial software may not be integrated into a curriculum, it still has relative advantage for math students. It is so common for students to miss class or fall behind in their work. By providing access to tutorial software, students can get caught up or even ahead in the class. Some students can learn more effectively when presented with a self-contained, self-paced unit of instruction. I always provided my students with links to great tutorial sites such as Visual Calculus or Cool Math. The use of tutorials can provide additional instruction and resources for a difficult topic to understand.
Simulation software models real systems or hypothetical situations for students to see how they can impact the process themselves. There are so many advantages for incorporating a simulation activity into a lesson. Students seem to be more motivated to learn and the opportunities for students to learn are more attainable. However, simulations must be well-implemented and fit the needs of students for it to be effective. I have never used any simulation software in my teaching methods before so I don’t have much experience with this function or how it benefits math students.
Most kids love to play games and have a natural drive for competition. For these reasons, the use of technology based games in the classroom is very effective. Some students complain that math can be tedious and boring at times. Using instructional games can help change students’ attitudes and motivate them in the learning of new material. “Games provide teachers with opportunities for taking advantage of a students’ innate desire to compete to get students to focus on a curriculum topic” (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p.96). In math, games are helpful tools when reviewing topics or practicing skills. Review games such as Jeopardy or Who Wants to be a Millionaire are both great examples to involve students and promote a fun but effective learning environment.
Problem solving software functions are applicable to the math field because it is crucial for students to be able to apply skills in order to solve higher level math problems. Following instruction, students are able to solve the “plug and chug” type problems easily but they usually struggle with the application type problems. This is because a lot of students lack the necessary problem solving skills to tackle higher level questions. These skills need to be fostered and promoted so that students are able to thinking critically and rise to the challenge of solving problems. Annenberg Learner provides interactive lessons that get students to ask themselves the right questions so that they might be able to solve more difficult problems. Students that can apply their skills and think logically and critically benefit greatly since they are able to succeed when faced with challenging tasks.
Doering, A & Roblyer, M. (2013). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (6th Ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.