Using Technology in the Elementary Classroom

by Marilyn Western

Math instruction can be enhanced by the techie teacher

Math is such a large part of the school day – and technology can enhance what you’re already doing. If you haven’t already thought of some of these activities, you might want to try one or two on Monday morning.

Have you explored the spreadsheet capabilities of your software yet? My first graders know how to open a spreadsheet file and add more data. They love to create different charts based on their spreadsheet – line, bar, and circle graphs. We have several ongoing spreadsheets – morning temperatures, daily sunrise and sunset, the growth of an amaryllis plant.

Students also make up their own survey questions to ask individuals during free centers time first thing in the morning. They place the data they collect into a spreadsheet and have a chart ready for morning meeting.

To make sure they ask all students in the class, my surveyors choose a partner to help. This helper has a clipboard with a special class list which contains pictures of each student next to the name. I’ve laminated this sheet, so the helper simply checks off the student with an overhead marker after that student has answered the survey question. Great software for student generated surveys is The Graph Club by Tom Snyder.

Want an exciting way to get those younger students really into counting numbers? Bring your class and a 35mm camera outside and take pictures of your students on the playground equipment, but do it systematically. Start out with one student on a swing, then two on the jungle gym, three on the slide, etc. The last picture will be of your whole class (however many that happens to be). After the pictures are developed, you can either set them up as a number center (match the picture with the number word) in a pocket chart, or assemble pictures plus words on a bulletin board or in a photo album for "reading."

Older students equipped with a digital camera (must have the strap around their neck to avoid dropping accidents!) can go for a walk seeking patterns or shapes. Import these into a slideshow program and you have a powerful student-created teaching tool. Or use the digital camera to capture images of students acting out story problems (Carol had seven apples and got five more from Joey. How many does she have now?)

What is more Math-like than using calculators? With the easy availability of calculators today, one would assume that kids would know how to use this technology. But if you’ve ever watched a student enter numbers, you’d be quick to notice that calculators are now held in two hands and thumbs are used to enter data.

Hmmm. Just what does that remind me of??? Unfortunately, it seems kids are much more at home with game consoles than calculators. Some teachers believe that calculators should not be used – the emphasis should be on learning those number facts. Others feel that calculators are a real part of everyday living and kids should be able to use them when needed.

Personally, I feel that students should have a mix and be taught how to choose the most appropriate tool to use, whether it’s a calculator or their brain. Calculators are a neat way to introduce skip counting (2 + 2 + 2 + 2…) and multiplication (five 2’s is ?).

Kid Pix Deluxe, HyperStudio, PowerPoint or ClarisWorks can be used for more than just report presentations. When you look at these programs through a mathematician’s eyes, you’ll come up with even more unique projects. The cut, paste, rotate tools allow the creator to form unique tessellations, patterns, and symmetrical designs. You can find a series of tutorials on how to tessellate at Tessellation Tutorials.

Students at any level can create Math shows – math vocabulary, definitions, and illustrations, or numbers, numeral, and illustrations, or counting by 2’s, 3’s, 5’s, or illustrating patterns (The ABBA Show), or a series of pictures that students draw around a specific shape. Inspiration can be a handy tool when students are brainstorming everything they know about a number or math concept.

Draw programs have lots of math possibilities also. Try creating a template (a master copy) of a 100 chart. Students can look for number patterns by coloring squares as they count by 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, etc. Or drag and match objects to determine if the number available is odd or even. Or illustrate place value by using a stamp to show 1’s, make it larger for 10’s, and even bigger for 100’s. Or divide pictures into fractional parts. Or illustrate combinations of numbers.

Scan coins and save in Kid Pix, then set up a template of stamps with price tags. Students can copy and paste the correct amount of coins for each "purchase." Glyphs are fun to do in any draw program also. I start them out with an outline and list the direction key on the template. Students can either do this individually (if they can read the directions) or set it up as a center with a reader available. Print out and display for collecting data about the class.

And, oh! The Internet sites devoted just to math!


Math Worksheet Factory Lite  Create your own worksheets complete with images, answer sheet, and a progress chart to track students!

ABCTeach Math Worksheets as well as a gold mine of ideas for 100th Day, graphing, measuring, Roman numerals, and more.

Math Fact Cafe Build your own worksheet, print pre-made, or use the online flashcards.

Math Goodies – Puzzle Page

Rick’s Math Web features worksheets and basic math tips – great for lower grades.

Math Problem Solving Worksheets - for 4th + 5th grade

MathCats worksheets Created by kids. Can print or do online.

Interactive Sites for Students

Funbrainincludes Math Baseball, Power Football, Change Maker, Fresh Baked Fractions and more

Aunty Math features biweekly fun challenges, so send in your answer!

Math Glossary

Base 10 Count  is a site at which to explore place value.

Cool Math for Kids  includes a treasure trove of math games for Preschool through high school (and this is just the kids’ section!).

National Library for Virtual Manipulatives for Interactive Mathematics Choose a topic & a grade level to see how number lines work, build with pattern blocks, tesselate shapes, and more.

MathCats Tessellations, magic squares, multiplication tables, and more.

Online Flashcards

The ArithMattack How many computer-generated arithmetic problems can you answer in 60 seconds? Use online or download (free).

Flashcards for Kids Choose type of problems, complexity, number range, keep score or not, timer on or off.

A+ Math Use the online flashcards or make your own to print.

AllMath Optional timer

Class Projects

Global Grocery List Project  Collect local grocery prices and compare to worldwide data

Lemonade Stand Run a virtual lemonade stand and try to make some money.

Math in Daily Life Learn about how math is used everywhere – good for class discussions and introductions to various math topics.

Resources & Ideas

Practical Money Skills for Students Lessons, Games, quizzes

PBS Teacher Source Lessons & activities

Last updated January 2003