I dare you to care about this math problem

An adult teacher friend of mine is taking an Algebra class. This class uses Pearson MyLab. He shared a few questions with me and it’s no surprise he’s frustrated and not doing well. Why is stuff like this a barrier for anyone? To be a teacher or to graduate high school? Asking students to use poorly designed online math tools is only a path to people hating math.

No Engagement

The MyLab website boasts of engagement. There is not one thing engaging about this. Could the web design be more plain? Take a lesson from Kahoot. We know gamification is engaging, a digital worksheet is not.

Personalization is Not Self Paced

The website claims personalized learning. There is not one thing personalized about these math problems. It’s simply self paced. Let’s stop defining personalized learning this way.

Where is the Context

“When will I ever use this?” Confidently I can say never. Math should not be students filling out contrived abstractions. Learning happens when we find meaning in what we are learning.

Mathematical Practices

Students should be engaged in the 8 mathematical practices. These MyLab math problems I’ve seen contain NONE of the 8 practices.

Your Self Worth is Not Stupid Math Problems

I have a degree in math. It’s not uncommon for someone to share with me their frustration with math problems they are doing. It makes them feel dumb when they are not dumb. “I’m not good at math.” LIES! There is no such thing as a math person. Your ability to crank out contextless algorithms is not a measure of your math ability. I like to bust out math problems from http://openmiddle.com which are higher critical thinking than traditional textbook problems. Without exception these folks I work with are perfectly capable of mathematical reasoning. They are math people. We all are.

It’s Not Digital, It’s Different

Making math digital is not about putting the same math problems online. We need to do math differently. Check out http://teacher.desmos.com for some excellent examples of how technology improves math learning, is engaging, and is different.

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