Teaching tech to middle schoolers makes math easier for one teacher to grade, and for the students to understand. 

They used pencils and paper, T1-Nspire hand-held computers and student response “clickers” to let teacher Roger Haglund know their answers.

Teaching Tech to Middle Schoolers Makes Math Easier

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By glancing at his Smart Board, Haglund could tell who was getting it – and not getting it.  His assessment would have taken much longer if he had to look at only papers.

“Anthony and George, come on. Let’s go!” he said, noticing that two students had not yet “clicked” in their answers.

“This is a 30-second question. When the next Pythagorean Theorem comes up, you’ve got one minute to answer it.”

It’s not hard to picture Haglund as he used to be, a swimming instructor who would push kids to do what they thought they couldn’t. Now he blends his coach-style cajoling — “Stop saying, ‘I don’t know how!’ ” — with electronic devices to engage seventh- and eighth-graders in math and science.

“A lot of this is figuring out how to reach them,” says Haglund. “These kids don’t know anything except digital devices.”

Haglund, the general manager at the Salt Lake Swimming and Tennis Club before he became a teacher 12 years ago, is one of five Utah teachers selected for KUED-The Salt Lake Tribune Teacher Innovation Awards.

Teaching Tech to Middle Schoolers Makes Math Easier

Click image to purchase book

Besides the hand-held computers and clickers, Haglund has flip cameras and 40 iPods in his classroom. Much of the technology was purchased with a $1 million federal grant to the school several years ago.

His eighth-grade science students wrote scripts and used the cameras to shoot videos of themselves explaining science concepts, such as photosynthesis, to seventh-graders.

Devices, Haglund says, are often a good way to engage children who are not native English speakers. Of Northwest’s students, nearly two-thirds do not speak English at home.

He keeps one of his favorite videos on his desktop computer. It shows three boys — two from Burma and one from Somalia — explaining exponential multiplication and division.

“They didn’t speak 20 words in front of other people [before],” Haglund says, “but they ended up demonstrating their knowledge.”

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Teaching Tech to Middle Schoolers Makes Math Easier

Click image to purchase book