It was nice to read my colleagues’ blogs about this week’s topic on qualitative research and it’s relation to classroom research. They had their own perspective on its importance in education, specifically the classroom teacher. I have to admit that this week’s essential question caught me off guard. As a math teacher for many years, it has never dawned on me to question, reflect, or even ponder about the “why” of math education, and to understand students’ feelings about the content. There is obviously a problem with math education in America and it is not difficult to point out that mathematics is not everyone’s favorite subject, especially in secondary, and post-secondary school. (Kids seem to love math in elementary!)
I have my own feelings about this topic over the 20+ years that I have taught it at the secondary level and to sum it up (sorry for the pun), I really think the problem lies with the relevance of the topic in everyday lives (Algebra 1 on up). Students don’t see the actual application in their lives. You could argue that it’s embedded in there in the wide variety of algorithms that computers and technology use to process information, but students don’t “see” that. We can talk until we are blue in the face, but I don’t think it will sink in. I don’t think I need to do some qualitative research to figure this out, but maybe do some research to find out what students feel like they want to learn that is important to them, in their prospective field of study or career. And this is not limited to secondary schools. Post secondary institutions have this same dilemma, in fact, students drop out of school for not understanding and passing math courses (those same courses that we “require” for graduation like college algebra, or other advanced math course that may not be applicable to their career choice).
So in light of this apparent problem in math education, I would like to propose a drastically radical research topic. It is called computer-based math. The idea is that we would replace the traditional hand calculation methods we have been teaching for centuries to a more practical approach where we use computer technology to help solve real world problems. I would like to find out if using this method would enhance math perception and alleviate pressures of math anxiety, and increase achievement and success. The technology utilized will be online graphing calculator apps, and computer algebra systems software via mobile devices, Chromebooks, or laptops.