I know this post is slightly off the January topic, but I wanted to get back into posting.
When our school system initially switched to the computerized version of our high school assessment for algebra, I had the same concerns that many mathematics teachers do. I worried mainly about how my students would interact with the test questions.
Learning and understanding mathematics is a hands on experience. Students learn to circle and underline key information in order to analyze problems. They draw pictures to visualize scenarios. They create tables and graphs to represent patterns and functions. They write out their steps to solve equations. Their pencil and paper are vital tools in analyzing, solving, and justifying their solutions.
The core of mathematics problem-solving is attacking a problem from several directions with key strategies and tools.My fear was that the tools and strategies that made students successful in my class would be abandoned when a mouse and keyboard were in my students hands. I wondered if they would write their work down or try to do it in their heads. I worried about how they would be able to work with tables and graphs with ease when they couldn’t write on them to count the units or follow the pattern. I worried that the temptation to click the answer and move to the next problem would keep my students from being patient and thoughtful problem-solvers. Most of all, I was worried that the art of a written mathematics solution would be lost.
Thankfully, my students were able to adapt. They didn’t abandon their trusty pencils. They still worked out solutions, but they also worked with the computer to highlight and mark on the screen. I also found many students turning their pencils around to make pointers to count the slope of a line or work through a set of data.
Our ability to teach our students to adapt to situations will be the key to the new era of testing. With tests that are hours long with questions in styles and formats that are new, our students will need to be flexible, critical thinkers. As teachers, we will need to be confident that are students can and will adapt to change.