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# The Impact of Technology on the Learning and Teaching of Mathematics Report

## Introduction

The processes of teaching and learning have experienced significant changes in the 21st century due to changes taking place in the society. One of the changes has been with regard to the application of technology in learning. Pierce and Ball (2009) acknowledge that teachers today have an extensive range of sophisticated technology available to them.

Technologies such as Mathematics software, scientific calculators, spreadsheets, and statistical packages have become commonplace in many classrooms. This is in sharp contrast to the traditional mathematics classroom, which was dominated by pen and paper. BECTA (2003) asserts that the technology has “changed the nature of teaching and learning in maths” (p.1).

The changes have been widespread due to government action through the National Curriculum. BECTA (2003) states that the National Curriculum has made the use of ICT in Mathematics a statutory requirement and all Secondary school students therefore have to make use of technology in their studies.

These changes caused by the use of technology have had some profound impacts on how teachers teach the subject of mathematics and how students engage in learning. This paper will set out to critically analyze the impact that technology has had on the teaching and learning of Secondary Mathematics.

## ICT and Mathematics

Over the last two decades, educational authorities in the country have worked hard to promote the use of ICT resources in the classroom setting. This move has been motivated by the need to improve the efficiency of teaching and learning as well as the need to ensure that students are properly prepared for their interaction with the real world.

Safdar et al. (2011) rightfully observe that the major goal of the teaching-learning process is to give students with skills that will help them earn livelihoods in future and become useful society members. It is therefore important for the education offered to conform to the development and innovations of the time. Mathematics is one of the subjects that have experienced significant interaction with technology. This interaction has led to a number of impacts on learning and teaching of mathematics.

## Impact on Teaching

### Positive Impacts

Use of technology serves as a motivation for teachers due to the positive outcomes achieved. Technology leads to teaching that is more effective and this leads to better performance for the students. Teachers are therefore motivated in their work due to these good results. Some research on the attitude of teachers to teaching with technology found that most experienced teachers, with strong mathematics backgrounds were at first half-hearted about teaching with technology (Pierce & Ball 2009).

This lack of enthusiasm for technology was the result of an assumption that using technology would not enhance student learning. However, this lack of enthusiasm is only temporal in nature.

Research indicates that while some teachers might express their reservations to using technology for teaching mathematics at first, these reservations do not last (Mkomange et al. 2012). As the students demonstrate good outcomes, a change occurs in teacher’s believes and attitudes. This leads to changes in teacher practice to incorporate technology in teaching the subject.

Technology fosters the development of a culture of effective teaching by teachers. When using technology, teachers are encouraged to broaden curriculum objectives, make use of more problem solving examples and utilize an inquiry-based approach to learning (Jurdak 2004).

The speed of doing calculations using technology also frees up time for deeper learning. A study by Safdar et al. (2011) on the effectiveness of teaching mathematics through technology as compared to using traditional teaching methods found that teaching mathematics with technology led to better academic achievements by the students. This suggests that technology use as a teaching strategy in mathematics leads to more effective teaching leading to an enhancement of students’ academic achievements.

Teaching mathematics with technology enhances the teacher’s ability to teach students about problem solving. Technology assists teachers in the construction of realistic complex problems in the class setting. These problems are modelled after real world problems that the student might encounter in real life.

By this means, mathematics uses problem solving to create contexts that simulate real life. Problem solving is an integral part of all mathematics learning and teachers are required to help students develop the skills needed to solve problems through the subject of mathematics (Mkomange et al. 2012).

Technology has been used to help cope with some of the “hard to teach” aspects of secondary mathematics. Students are wary of some mathematical topics such as geometry and trigonometry. In the traditional classrooms, teachers were often unable to make use of appropriate tools to simply the topic and foster student understanding.

Technology enables teachers to make use of learning aids that are designed to exploit the student’s visualization and modelling power to solve problems. Software applications such as Computer-Aided Design assist teachers to come up with simplified and interesting ways of teaching these hard topics in mathematics.

For example, some powerful 3D applications make it possible to manipulate solid geometrical figures such as cones and cubes therefore fostering understanding by the student. By use of such ICT tools, students will find it easier to comprehend the subject matter and they will be inspired to learn. Teachers on the other hand will be inspired by the positive outcomes from the students.

Teaching mathematics with technology gives the teacher more tools with which to offer instructions to the students. A critical role of the teacher is to explain different concepts to the students and ensure that they understand the material being presented.

Unlike in the traditional setting where the teacher was confined to relying on drawings and handmade models, technology offers a wider variety of teaching aids. Jurdak (2004) states that technology enables teachers to make use of simulations to better elaborate certain mathematical concepts.

The ability of the teacher to explain mathematical concepts is facilitated by technology. BECTA (2004) confirms that this technology contributes to the effectiveness of teaching by offering ways through which the teacher can model abstract ideas and concepts.

### Negative Impacts

Using technology might reduce the control that the teacher has in the class setting. This might lead to the belief that technology is detrimental to the learning process. In the traditional method of teaching, the teacher was at the centre of the learning process. He/she exercised control in the class and tightly directed classroom discussion and student activity. Technology takes away this control and significantly changes the classroom practice.

Pierce and Ball (2009) demonstrate that use of technology promotes a ‘student-centred’ model of learning where the individual student is able to explore the mathematical topic being studied using technology.

When students have too much control, the teacher might perceive that his/her teaching efforts are hindered by technology. The beliefs and attitude of the teacher are importantly linked to his/her classroom practice. A belief by the teacher that teaching mathematics with technology is detrimental will lead to classroom practices that do not promote technology.

The use of technology in teaching mathematics requires major changes to teaching practices. In most cases, the teacher will be required to adopt new teaching methods in order to exploit the technology resources available. Teaching mathematics with technology necessitates a significant change in the operation of teachers who have been teaching the subject using traditional methods, and who were themselves taught in traditional mathematics classrooms.

Mkomange et al. (2012) reveal that teachers are likely to teach mathematics in the same way they are taught. Since majority of the experienced teachers were taught in the traditional classroom that did not make use of technology, they are therefore inclined to use the same methods for their students.

The additional effort required to familiarize themselves with teaching mathematics with technology might dissuade most teachers from adopting a favourable outlook to technology since this will require additional effort.

The increased workload for the teacher as he/she learns how to use the new technology is best articulated by Fuglestad (2011) who declares that familiarization with technology implies “not just learning to handle the computer with software and other digital tools, but relating the technology to the other knowledge areas” (p.3).

Teaching efficiency for some teachers will reduce as they learn how to incorporate technology in their teaching practice. Teaching requires the teacher to demonstrate a deep level of understanding on the subject. When using technology, the teacher should have an in-depth knowledge of the digital tools to be used and demonstrate proficiency in using them. Ball et al. (2008) asserts that the teacher must know enough to enable him/her to guide the students as they use the technology to come up with solutions to the mathematical problems.

## Impact on Learning

### Positive Impacts

Technology enhances learning in students by promoting interaction between students. BECTA (2003) reveal that through technology it is easier for students to share their findings and engage in discussions on various topics. An important concept is that technology encouraged interaction between students even when there was no supervision from the teachers.

Effective use of collaboration to solve problems is one of the important lessons that educators hope to impart on students through their education since collaboration plays a crucial role in most work environments. The educational experience of the student is therefore enriched by the use of technology when ideas such as collaboration are emphasized upon.

Technology encourages students to take part in trial and error processes as they learn. In the traditional method where students utilize pencil and paper, students are pressured to get the answer right in the first trial. If they do not know how to go about achieving this, they are unlikely to experiment since the traditional method is time consuming and labour intensive. Using technology, students are provided with the means to compute mathematical problems in a speedy manner.

Fuglestad (2011) demonstrates that as a result, technology encourages students to engage in trial and error to arrive at a solution to the question. When the student fails to get the right answer at the fist try, he can easily start over again until the correct answer is reached. As such, technology drives students to exercise independence in their search for answers. This increases self-efficacy, a quality that is desirable in students.

Use of technology increases the interest that students have in the subject. Most applications are designed in such a manner that they appeal to the student through diverse presentation styles and engaging format. The student’s interest in learning is therefore triggered and maintained. Increase in interest is a desired quality since it leads to higher levels of understanding.

When teachers make use of interactive whiteboards, they are able to present material in a lively and engaging way. BECTA (2004) states that active engagement is encouraged when whiteboards are used since these tools increase enjoyment of the learning process for the student. This engagement is associated with gains in motivation and this leads to good performance. Better learning outcomes are therefore promoted by the use of technology in Mathematics since the students’ learning experience is made enjoyable.

Students make use of portable equipment such as laptops and PDAs in their learning. They are therefore able to carry their class work with them even outside the class environment. Technology therefore makes it possible for the student to take part in continual knowledge construction as they use their portable equipment outside the class setting (Niess 2005). Student understanding of mathematical concepts is therefore enhanced since they interact with the subject even outside class.

Technology assists in the development of a positive attitude to learning mathematics. Most Secondary school students perceive mathematics to be one of the more challenging subjects. They therefore have a negative outlook concerning the subject and this contributes to the poor results especially among lower achieving students.

Use of ICT devices in the class leads to the development of a more positive outlook. Pierce and Ball (2009) state that most students demonstrate an improved attitude to learning mathematics when they are given the opportunity to work with technology. This is partly because of the personal pleasure that student derive from using computers.

Technology fosters deeper understanding of mathematical concepts and rules. Students using calculators and computers are able to work at higher levels of generalization and abstraction. Research indicates that by use of technology, students are able to learn more mathematics more deeply.

A key characteristic of technology is that it saves the student from having to engage in the time involving manual labour of computations (Jeng et al. 2010). In tasks such as drawing graphs, the student only needs to enter the correct data and the computer program will generate the graph. The student is therefore left with more time to engage in more important parts of learning mathematics such as analysing the computations made in a particular problem.

### Negative Impacts

Technology might discourage learning in some students. While some students are encouraged to from a positive attitude to mathematics through technology, others are discouraged by the same. Research indicates that female secondary students are likely to develop negative attitudes when exposed to computer-based mathematics (Pierce & Ball 2009). These negative outcomes are prompted by the significantly lower confidence in female students about using technology.

Use of technology can be detrimental to the learning process due to the high level of autonomy that students might have. In using technology, students might have to concentrate on their mobile devices or computers unlike in the traditional setting where all the attention would be focused on the teacher.

When using their individual devices, it can be hard for the teacher to monitor student activity. Safdar et al. (2011) assert that this might lead to significant problems as students might deviate from the current lesson. Without following the guidance of the teacher the student’s performance in the subject will suffer.

## Discussion

Technology is becoming more prevalent in our society today. In can be expected that technology will be incorporated in teaching and learning mathematics even more extensively in the coming years. Teachers need to be adequately prepared for the transition from a traditional mathematics classroom to one where technology is used as a core part of the teaching process.

Jurdak (2004) notes that even with the most sophisticated technology in place, significant enhancement in teaching and learning cannot be realized if teachers are not adequately trained to utilize the technology for teaching purposes. The school administration can assist in providing additional training opportunities for teachers to enable them to learn how to utilize the technology in an effective manner.

## Conclusion

This paper set out to assess the impacts of teaching mathematics with technology. The paper has revealed that use of technology improves students’ learning and leads to better results in mathematics. Through this paper, it is clear that use of technology supports students in their appreciation of mathematics and fosters a deeper mathematical understanding.

The effectiveness of teacher is increased when they make use of technology. The paper has acknowledged that technology has some notable negative effects on the teaching and learning of mathematics. However, these negative impacts can be overcome by improving the teachers’ proficiency in technology and ensuring that students are properly supervised as they interact with technology.

## References

Ball, DL, Thames, M & Phelps, G 2008, ‘Content knowledge for teaching: What makes it special?’, Journal of teacher education, vol. 59, no. 1, pp. 389-407.

BECTA 2003, What the Research says about using ICT in Maths, Department for Education and Skills, Norwich.

BECTA 2004, Embedding ICT at Secondary: Use of interactive whiteboards in mathematics, Department for Education and Skills, Norwich.

Fuglestad, B 2011, Challenges Teachers Face With Integrating ICT With An Inquiry Approach in Mathematics, <http://www.cerme7.univ.rzeszow.pl/WG/15a/CERME7-WG15A-Paper02_Fuglestad.pdf>.

Jeng, Y, Wu, T, Huang, YM, Tan, Q & Yang, S 2010, ‘The Add-on Impact of Mobile Applications in Learning Strategies: A Review Study’, Educational Technology & Society, vol. 13, no.3, pp.3–11.

Jurdak, M 2004, Technology and Problem Solving in Mathematics: Myths and Reality. Proceedings of the International Conference on Technology in Mathematics Education, Lebanon.

Mkomange, C, Bahati, I & Ajagbe, M 2012, ‘The Roles and Importance of Technology in Mathematics Teaching and Learning-A Literature Review’, IJCRB, vol. 3, no. 11, pp. 476-486.

Niess, ML 2005, ‘Scaffolding Math Learning with Spreadsheets’, Learning and Leading with Technology, vol. 32, no. 5, pp.24-48.

Pierce, R & Ball, L 2009, ‘Perceptions that may affect teachers’ intention to use technology in secondary mathematics classes’, Educational Studies in Mathematics, vol. 71, no. 3, pp. 299–317.

Safdar, A, Yousuf, M, Parveen, Q & Malik, G 2011, ‘Effectiveness of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Teaching Mathematics at Secondary Level’, International Journal of Academic Research, vol. 3, no. 5, pp. 67-72.