Using The Disruptive Energy of Technology to Change Big Ideas in Math Education

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Technology is disruptive by nature.

It advances the way we think, communicate, and learn. It can also inadvertently create false dichotomies in education and the implementation of weak/misunderstood ideas of the benefits of technology.



Disruption always works at a high velocity. Its impact may take some time, but the generation of new ideas, iteration, and dissemination into society are always moving fast. Just look at what Artificial Intelligence has done in the last few years.

In 2016, the Chinese game of GO had one of the top players in the world quickly succumb to Google’s AlphaGo machine. What was astounding was not the actual defeat, but the strategies employed by the AI machine that ran counter to thousands of years of traditional strategies. AlphaGo basically made moves that were unconventional, random, and erratic.

Last year, the AI machine Libratus defeated some of the world’s top poker players in the world. Poker with its complex strategies, fragmented information, and use of psychology, was always thought to be almost immune from any technological challenges to this human game.


It learned to learn.

While these kind of developments are on the cutting edge of technology, every kind of technology–even digital math platforms–feed off of this massive disruption to conventional thinking.

In math education, this innovative speed becomes a complex game of business survival and meeting the high level pedagogical needs of math educators. Ironically, but not surprisingly, changes in math education occur much slower. This is for many reasons, which include, but are not limited to: tradition, historical need for formal education, size, and energy diffused in math debates on teaching practice/philosophy.

Technology also knows its place in the hierarchy of things. Well, good technology does.



So, not only does taking technology out of a supportive/reactive role to good pedagogy create a problem, but over-emphasizing its value negates the idea of equity in math education. It’s a tricky balance. However, the companies that understand the picture above will be the ones that thrive. The ones that don’t will be footnotes in the clogged highways of digital platforms.

The larger pedagogical ideas of mathematics, moving forward, are circling around play, sandbox learning, and deep understanding. Digital companies that are acutely aware of this are producing–will need to produce–resources that support the seamless confluence of these ideas.

A while back I created a series of short videos looking at the interactive nature of our platform. Here is a link to the popular Modeling Multiplying Fractions activity.

This constant pressure to evolve will not only help digital platforms become better in terms of meeting the educational students and teachers, but it will also exert influence on how mathematics has to change and adapt to the learning styles that are native to mathematics–ample space and time–and honor the interest/motivation of classroom students and teachers.

But, at the end of the day, teaching mathematics is about connecting with kids in ways that are genuine, human and memorable.

Technology can be a vessel or a barrier for that.

We all need to be on the right ship.

Mathematics Learning Specialist | Spécialiste de l'apprentissage des mathématiques