Math Coaches and Mathematica
July 20, 2010 — Andy Dorsett, Academic Account Manager
When I attended this year’s National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference in San Diego, I met many “math coaches”. All teachers are coaches of their classrooms, but I’m referring to teachers whose titles are “coach”. These coaches spend time with at-risk or struggling students, trying to help the students gain further success in their education.
Coaches spend time working one on one or in small groups with these students to help them achieve a higher level of knowledge. They are looking for interactive ways to get students excited about all of their homework as well as to prepare them for standardized tests—especially in math—in new ways, relevant to the students and the topics.
However, very few of these math coaches have computer programming backgrounds. Quite often, their main technology tool has been the basic calculator. These coaches were interested in a tool that would not cost them hours of time to learn.
They also appreciated more advanced Demonstrations that highlight difficult topics. For instance, the coaches I met particularly liked an Algebra II example on ellipses and hyperboles with the same focal points:
The coaches were excited to see how easy it is to show how the change in eccentricity affected the shape and location of curves in the graph. This is not an easy idea to communicate to high school students. The coaches realized that seeing this parameter changing in real time added much value and weight to the lesson. No longer was eccentricity just another value to find after plugging meaningless numbers into some formula the Algebra II book gave them.
Coaches also liked Demonstrations that can take the place of hand-held manipulatives, like this “virtual paper” one on the sum of interior angles of a triangle:
The coaches I met at the conference who work with challenged students on a daily basis see Mathematica as a great way to show students vital math skills. Please email us for more information about how you can get started using Mathematica in your own classroom.