I pose the above question because I am seeing a rise in popularity for teachers using sites like Mathletics, StudyLadder, MangaHigh and others as part of their learning program for their students. Now I have no axe to grind with these sites as many students do find them engaging and a way to improve their mathematical facts recall but I am concerned that in some cases, these sites are being used as “the maths programme” for the class and/or being used to address the use of technology in the classroom.
I’d love the opinion of a progressive maths educator as to the relative value of a site like Mathletics. My own personal experience with my eldest son is that the activities are easily gamed. My son is lousy at maths but has an excellent memory. He can do a multiple choice activity by trial and error, remembering the correct answer after multiple tries and just keeps restarting the activity until he gets a clear run and a memorised sequence of answers in his head. Now that might be a feat in itself but it does nothing for his understanding – and just cements all the problems that students get when trying to operate in digital abstraction when their needs are still in the physical concrete. But from his teacher’s point of view, he is getting 20/20 in the set activities and looks like he has achieved mastery. I have a feeling that many of these sites have the same problem. They present mathematical learning as a correct answer scenario and can only use that data to measure progress. So, a teacher blindly substituting Mathletics (and I keep picking on this site because it is the one I am most familiar with and the one most South Australian schools are prepared to fork over precious dollars to but every education sector in the world would have its equivalents) cannot possibly know if the student is truly demonstrating mathematical learning.
The first part of my question is also part of my issue. Unless you are part of a 1 to 1 laptop school (and that is a privileged minority in the primary school sector) then you have to share fleets of laptops or computing suites with other classes within the school. Technology access is an issue that all schools have to wrestle with – using timetables, rotations and pods to make sure that the available technology is frequently and flexibly used. As we are living in a era where technology gives our students the opportunity to create, construct and reflect, then it makes sense that the majority of the technology access for our students should be devoted to that goal. These sites, in my opinion, don’t fit the bill.
Am I the only one who has a problem with these sites? Is part of my problem my inability to communicate to others what the alternative – a research based comparison of city temperatures utilising web data and Excel created by my tandem partner last year with my class springs to mind – might look like?