Improve math marks by using technology says Brock MEd student

Tell Rebecca Bunz you’re not a math person and she’ll be ready to refute your claim.

Bunz, an instructor at Brock University and Niagara College and a current MEd student, believes everyone is capable of mastering the numerical challenges that math presents; it all comes down to how they digest the information.

Rebecca Bunz

Rebecca Bunz

“Anyone can be a mathematician or a math teacher,” says Bunz. “Just because you didn’t understand math when you were young, doesn’t mean you’re not a math person today. You might just not have been taught in a way that was appropriate to your style.”

This belief, along with a passionate interest in educational technology, propelled Bunz to explore how technology in the math classroom could generate the interest — and results — amongst math educators and students.

Bunz analyzed completed research on tech in the math classroom and separated the data into three categories: positive results, negative results, and no effects. Dissecting the types of technology used and how it was implemented in the successful cases prompted her to create her own handbook as she pursued her research.

“It’s all about what strategies already work in the classroom and enhancing them using technology or being able to do things you couldn’t do without technology,” she said of her findings. “I think there’s a huge push for using math games in the classroom, but there are a lot of teachers doing that incorrectly — they’re using more of a drill and kill type of game where you’re not really doing anything else besides answering a question in a more fun and engaging way. It isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, but they could be doing so much more.”

Bunz has delivered presentations on the subject at three conferences this year, and will start 2017 by presenting at the Future of Education Technology Conference in Orlando Jan. 27.

“I caught the presentation bug at CONNECT 2016 and I fell in love with presenting. I realized how big this world was and how important it was going to be. It’s a bit overwhelming, but very exciting,” she said.

With declining math scores often a source of fodder for skeptics and researchers alike, Bunz is tapping into a 21st century classroom model that will allow for the types of teaching and learning students can easily understand.

“People want information on how to improve teaching math,” she said. “Students can discover things through animations and simulations that you couldn’t show in the classroom (in the past). So it’s easier to help them discover become more independent in their own learning with technology. But it’s how you use it and the pedagogy behind the tech that’s most important.”

Bunz’ work highlights the notion that technology is not being used to replace traditional teaching methods, but rather as an aid to learning, evident in her gamification and game-based learning research as well as her evaluation and integration of digital tools.

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