5 Ideas to level up Elementary Math with Technology

Kelly Gary on episode 265 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Elementary Math can be exciting. Check out these five ideas to use technology to make math exciting.

5 ideas for improving math kelly gary


This week I’ll be sharing the 7 Pedagogical Shifts That Make Interactive Displays a Key to a Student-Centered Classroom on the Cool Cat Teacher blog sponsored by SMART Technologies. Shift #1 is that Students are collaborators. My interactive display is the common workspace for the whole class. I use it as a digital workspace, to display any screen for the whole class to see, as a large multi-touch drawing and brainstorming space and so much more. My interactive display is a must-have device. I wouldn’t want to teach without one. Recent research shows that large interactive displays are vital to the classroom ecosystem.

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5 Ideas to level up Elementary Math with Technology

Link to show:

Date: March 2, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking with Kelly Gary, a first-grade teacher in Pennsylvania, about five ideas for improving elementary math with technology.

So Kelly, what is your first idea?

Kelly: Gosh, there are so many to pick from!

I picked the ones that the kids really enjoy doing.

One of the simple tools is an ELMO, which projects everything onto a SMARTboard.

#1 – Using an ELMO with a SMARTboard

Having the children bring their work up to the ELMO and explain how they got to the answer is such an easy way to use technology when you’re first starting out.

That’s what I did. I just used an ELMO, a simple tool.

Then I got more comfortable with the SMARTboard, and I created my own lessons.

So number two would be using SMARTboard technology and creating activities and problems so that the kids take their names and put them into story problems. I have pictures moving, of things that they like to do, so it’s meaningful to them. They’re so excited to be the star math student of the day.

#2 SMARTboard Technology and Creating Story Problems with Students’ Names in Them

Vicki: Can you talk me through an example of a story problem that you’re doing with your interactive whiteboard that you’ve created?

Let’s just say that you’ve got a student named Tom. What would Tom experience in this interactive story?

Kelly: So, if I had, let’s say, Tom and Sally…

I ask them what they like to do, and if they have any pets, or about any of their favorite toys.

With the SMARTboard technology, I’m able to create a story problem for them.

The whole class can find the SMARTboard Notebook on the iPad. I split them up into pairs.

They don’t know whose name is going to pop up every day. I surprise them with different activities and things that I see going on in the classroom.

As soon as they see their name, you can see those two students’ faces (the math stars of the week) brighten up. All the class is excited!

They get on the iPad, and if they like puppies and cats, one story problem might be:

Tom has 5 puppies. He walks 3, and 2 were sleeping.

Sally has 7 cats, and 2 were sleeping.

We can do lots of comparing with those problems. We can show them math facts, how to solve the math problem by adding or subtracting, comparing, etc. And all of the pictures move.

So I create a little picture that the kids can move on their own, instead of drawing. They move the dogs, and they move the cats. They compare, and the solve the problem on their own first. Then we come together and we check our answers and talk about the different ways that this problem can be solved.

So… what I call the “Math Star Problem of the Day” always involves students and a little bit about them.

Vicki: Fun!

OK, so they’re working on their iPads and you’re connecting (math to their daily lives).

So what’s your third, Kelly?

Kelly: My third is when I am teaching symmetry.

I create a Google Doc. I go searching. Eventually the kids go searching and I show them where they can do Safe Searches through Google. We find all these buildings from around the world, so we take math out of the classroom, and they get to look at buildings from Paris. We’ve done the Eiffel Tower. Down in Miami, the Breaker Hotel.

#3 – Teaching Symmetry with Buildings Around the World

We find all these different building, and we talk about symmetry. The kids really so… They’re traveling around the world. We map them on our SMARTboard, where these places are. We really enjoy having a great conversation about symmetry. They get to design their own building that is symmetrical.

Vicki: Now where do they design? What do they use to design their building?

Kelly: Oh!

I’m glad you said that. I have this app.

You can use any app. You can do a Story Creator or Little Bird or Be in the Story.

They can create their building with the iPad, using lines and circles, and just the regular…

If you’re starting off, and you’re not comfortable with technology, just the whiteboard, which is an app that you can get on the iPad, which is a great thing, because I always try to use apps that can be mailed to parents.

Every activity, I email the parents so they can see exactly what we’re doing that day, and it’s so much appreciated by the parents.

Vicki: Yeah. I’ve put in the Shownotes with of other shows that teachers use SeeSaw, which is another great way to share the portfolio with parents.

Kelly: Yes! Yes! There’s another great one. And the parents truly appreciate it.

Vicki: They do. They want to know what kids are doing. OK, what’s our fifth, Kelly?

Kelly: The fifth one is the interactive Hundreds Chart.

#5 – Hundreds Chart

You can project it on the SMARTboard, a very easy one when you’re starting off in using technology with math. It’s called the Hundreds Splat. It’s a huge board, and you can change colors and do counts of 2. You can change the color again and do counts of 5.

And as they’re doing it, they can come up, and it makes a cute little splat sound, and all the kids get so excited to come up the the SMARTboard.

Before, I used to use the Hundreds Chart at their seat, which I still do. But getting them involved and hearing the splat is so much fun. It becomes so much fun for the kids and interactive for them as they do it at their seats with their crayons.

They are able to see the patterns really big on the screen. We have a great conversation about how many different patterns. We see them diagonally, and all over the place.

Vicki: So, Kelly, you love technology and you love teaching math. How do you keep up on technology? Where do you find out about these apps and tools?

Kelly: I do my own searches all the time.

We have an amazing technology teacher here that — if she goes to conferences…

I was actually nominated for the keystone technology award for Pennsylvania because of my use of technology and being acknowledged by the state of Pennsylvania.

I was just always told, “Girls can’t do math.” That motivated me as a little girl, and I always want to show that math is so much fun. And it can be, you know, they don’t even realize they’re learning because they’re playing.

We’re such 21st Century learners with all these iPads and gadgets that it’s become such a huge hands-on. Of course you have to use it effectively. It’s not an all day activity, but used effectively and in a meaningful way, it makes such a big difference with motivation of these kids.

Vicki: As we finish up, give our elementary teachers a pep talk about making math exciting.

Kelly: Gosh. Math.

When you think about all the kids we have in the class. Think about the ways they learn — so many different ways — by listening, by pictures.

And that’s what my goal is.

If you come into my classroom, you know, all children learn different ways.

Because they’re so used to using the iPad and being on their phones all the time, giving it that interactive computer feel and right away getting that, “You’re correct,” or “Answer…” It just makes it more exciting for them, and they’re more engaged, and the conversations we’re having when they work together.

And of course you can do it with paper and pencil, but bringing it to life and having them see all these numbers move and brighten up and pictures and… It’s just become a different way of teaching for me. And I hope that I share that excitement with that with everyone who’s listening.

Vicki: So teachers, we can make math exciting, and technology is such a fantastic tool to use to make math more engaging and more exciting.

I hope you enjoy these five ideas, and also keep searching and getting out there and finding even more ways to make math come alive.


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Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford kymberlimulford@gmail.com


Bio as submitted

I am a first-grade teacher at Sewickley Academy, a private school in Pittsburgh, PA. I have been teaching first grade for 23 years. I Love using technology in the classroom in an effective and purposeful way in order to motivate students.





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