Integrating Computers into the Classroom Through Virtual Mathematics

Baturo, Annette R. & Cooper, Thomas J. (2004) Integrating Computers into the Classroom Through Virtual Mathematics. In SEAMEO-UNESCO Education Congress and Expo: Adapting to Changing Times and Needs, 27-29 May 2004, Bangkok, Thailand.


In Australia, most school classrooms have Microsoft Office software and a few computers but there is often little integration of these computers and the software into classroom teaching. The author has developed a way in which teachers can use the PowerPoint component of Office to introduce mathematics ideas by constructing teacher-made activities in which students can use mouse movements to manipulate virtual copies of physical materials that are commonly used in Australian classrooms to introduce those ideas.

Virtual mathematics activities are very similar to the activities with the physical materials that they replicate. As a consequence, technophobic teachers (teachers who are afraid to use computers in their classrooms) are willing to risk computers to use the virtual materials with their students. Virtual materials are more abstract than concrete matterials but less abstract than pictorial representations and therefore are able to help bridge the gap from concrete to pictorial representations and, then, to abstraction (the gap between action and expression that Noss, Healy & Hoyles, 1997, argue is difficult to bridge). Therefore virtual mathematics activities should be generally effective with students making the experience with the computers positive and encouraging teachers to try other uses of computers.

This presentation will describe the virtual mathematics approach and discuss its effectiveness in Queensland classrooms (particularly low socio-economic classrooms). In Queensland, student manipulation of virtual materials is a very different use of computers in mathematics education than that commonly seen in schools. Initial findings from trials in classrooms are indicating that virtual materials do provide a bridge from the acquisition of computer skills to the implementation of classroom activities, and that teachers do find virtual activities easy to develop and effective in promoting positive learning outcomes (Baturo & Cooper, 2001). It also appears that the comforting similarities between virtual and physical materials enables teachers to recognise opportunities for translating their traditional teaching activities to computer activities. Teachers have been impressed by the excitement, prolonged engagement, and natural collaboration provoked by virtual activities.

Virtual mathematics activities can be "debugged, reconstructed, transformed, separated and combined together" (Healey & Hoyles, 1999, p. 59) and saved for later reuse for the same or other students. They enable students' manipulations to be saved and stored for later assessment, providing teachers with unique knowledge of all students' proficiency with all components of the manipulations. They are multi-representational (providing visuals, language and symbols) and dynamic (showing transformations and changes as well as relationships). They use the visual, symbolic and operational power of technology and provide another pedagogical and didactical tool for teachers' use of technology.

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ID Code: 15739
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Additional Information: For more information, please refer to the conference's website (see hypertext link) or contact the author.
Additional URLs:
Keywords: virtual mathematics, computers, classroom, mathematics education
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > SPECIALIST STUDIES IN EDUCATION (130300) > Educational Technology and Computing (130306)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY (130200) > Mathematics and Numeracy Curriculum and Pedagogy (130208)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2004 Annette R. Baturo and Thomas J. Cooper
Deposited On: 27 Nov 2008 00:00
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 13:09

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