National Strategies Secondary Maths Collection - ICT Supporting Mathematics: Algebra
Collection Author: Craig Barton - Maths AST and creator of www.mrbartonmaths.com (TES Name: mrbartonmaths)
ICT has many interesting approaches and resources to offer to the teaching of algebra.
Spreadsheets in particular offer many opportunities to explore sequences, multiple representations and formulae in quick and accessible ways.
When used with an interactive whiteboard there are many opportunities given by ICT to display and discuss ideas in algebra, especially when used in conjunction with the ability to hide and reveal answers.
The resources are divided into the two sub-strands of algebra. Research from the ICT pilot ‘Improving learning in mathematics’ has shown that these resources work best when the teacher has thoroughly planned their use in a lesson.
1. Equations, Formula, Expressions and Identities
Many pupils become mechanically proficient with algebra without a deeper understanding, and this leaves them unable to solve problems in unfamiliar contexts. Skills are also often taught in an isolated way so that pupils do not see the connections between them. The problems in these materials encourage the use of differing skills to solve problems in the context of puzzles.
- This spreadsheet puzzle leads pupils through a series of interactive screens in which they need to find missing numbers in a series of Fibonacci-style sequences, known as ‘Fibs and truths’.
- This series of spreadsheet puzzles leads pupils through a series of interactive screens in which they need to create expressions in an attempt to solve a series of increasingly complex algebra squares.
- This spreadsheet allows pupils or the class group to try to refine a solution to an equation of the form axb ± cx = n by trying different values of x.
2. Sequences, Functions and Graphs
Many pupils are taught to be able to substitute into equations, draw graphs of lines and learn about how m is the gradient and c the y intercept. Often pupils find it difficult to recognise the equation of a line from its graph or a table of results, or vice versa. This work attempts to use multiple representations to deepen pupils’ understanding of the relationships between equations, tables and graphs.
- Spreadsheets allow us to quickly display and make the links between equations, their resultant tables and graphs.
- This spreadsheet shows pupils the link between the coefficient of x and the steps in which the sequence increases from term to term.
- This spreadsheet is an interesting way of introducing some algebraic thinking around patterns. Each screen is displayed for a short period of time and pupils are encouraged to work out the number of dots by memorising the pattern and reflecting upon it.
- Spreadsheets allow us to quickly make calculations, and to change a question while the solution is hidden. These two simple ideas could be starting points for small investigations or lead onto further work.