Math students press play to learn more
March 3, 2015
With students receiving no math textbooks since Common Core became the standard in Utah in 2010, math teachers at Treasure Mountain Junior High saw a need for students to have a resource that would help them learn difficult concepts.
So they turned to technology. The school’s math department created dozens of online instructional videos over the summer, giving students a tool to supplement classroom instruction.
"When kids would either miss school or need a little bit of extra help, we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if they just had a quick how-to video to watch?’" said Andrea Payne, who teaches ninth-grade math. "They could just go to this site, watch a five- or 10-minute video and remember how to do something."
The videos, which range from about five to 20 minutes, have been a hit with many students who have used them for supplemental help. But the math department found an unconventional way to utilize the videos even further.
Math teachers have taught some units using a "flipped classroom" approach. Under this method, students are assigned to learn the concepts at home by watching the videos, then come to class the next day and complete assignments.
Some students enjoyed the method, while others were less enthusiastic. Payne said that while it’s not necessarily better or worse than a traditional approach, a flipped classroom does have clear benefits.
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"A teacher can teach a lesson through the videos with no interruptions, no bells ringing, no students coming in," she said. "You get the lessons laid out, and the students can pause and rewind as much as they need. Then the next day, I have a better handle on who needs more attention and who doesn’t. I can then do a lot more one-on-one interaction."
Maddy Werbelow was one student who said she learned better using the flipped classroom method. It allowed her to learn at her own pace.
"I liked the videos more watching them at home," she said. "I could pause them and rewind it and pay attention more to what she was saying. It was easier for me to get the concept. Then she was there in class to help me with the assignments."
Rachel Bigatel said the best thing about using the videos is that they eliminate the interruptions that happen while teachers are lecturing.
"I like them because in class we could ask her questions instead of just listening all the time," Bigatel said. "She would explain it straightforward in the videos. She wouldn’t add any random things that happen in class, like small-talk and stuff. So they are straight to the point with no distractions."
But missing out on those distractions can also be to a student’s detriment, Payne said, acknowledging one of the flipped method’s weaknesses.
"When you do it live, and you do get interrupted with a question, students get those curiosities addressed right then instead of having to wait until the next day," Payne said.
One of the best aspects of creating the videos for Payne is being on the forefront of using technology in education. She said it is the wave of the future.
"It’s exciting because I know that there’s so much out there and it’s almost limitless — there’s no ceiling," she said. "So in that respect, if kids don’t understand what they’re getting in the classroom, there are so many places they can go to get help."
Payne said it’s also important to ensure students are not overwhelmed with the amount of option they have. The math department’s videos make sure students have an easy-to-access resource that applies directly to what they’re learning.
"Our videos are very targeted toward our presentation and the type of problems we’re assigning," she said. "This way the kids don’t have to sift to get a good video. They know they have ones that their teachers have put together."
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