I think we can’t ignore that one thing that happens in education. Everything changes all the time and people think that it’s static. But actually, in education, things are changing all the time. The most recent changes seem to be revolving around digital classroom technology.
So the iPads and the interactive whiteboard work really nicely together with hand hands-on materials as well. What we’d like to do is combine those touch technologies with kinesthetic play. So the touch technologies have two really interesting things coming together. They have a visual affordance, that is, they have this kind of visual way of presenting information to build really deep understanding of ideas. The second part is that we use gestures when we’re using interactive whiteboards and iPads.
The main thing that the children are learning today is geometry and the underlying principle there was that we think about space, we think about objects in space and that’s what was the ground to all of the tasks. The first task was with pattern blocks which also had patterning in it. So the pattern was there, it was a repeating pattern, and that’s part of the patterning in the algebra curriculum. But they were using geometric figures to help them make sense of that. Not only that, but the core itself was a unit of geometric figures that they were then repeating. So there was sort of the piece there around the geometry.
In the second task, the students were using 3D mental rotations to make sense of cubes and blocks and so that’s why we asked them to make as many different buildings as possible. So they were looking at combinations, the geometry of those combinations and then mentally and kinesthetically rotating the objects. Once they touch the iPads, they were gesturing the rotations of the same figures and so it gives them a whole bunch of different perspectives and ways of thinking about 3D structures.
In the third task, the students had to think more on a 2D plane, but they had to hold multiple ideas simultaneously in their heads. So they had to think about not just joining a blue dot to a blue dot but also keeping in mind that there is a yellow dot that need to be joined to another yellow dot. So the pathways were interconnected in that. The problem had to be solved as a whole even though the students were using cards.
You notice that a lot of the activities that the students were doing today involved spatial reasoning and thinking geometrically without necessarily having to work very deeply through the language part of the tasks. These all have to do spatial reasoning and spatial reasoning is an amazing and important part of mathematics learning. It’s the foundation to what engineers are doing and chemists and so many other professions later on. But it’s also a predictor of reading abilities In fact, mathematics overall, is an excellent predictor of reading, math, and social studies, great retention, and all kinds of things we didn’t expect. These young children, when they have the opportunity to really learn mathematics deeply with the supports of technology and other tools, they will have so much more success all the way through school.