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Artificial Intelligence forces us to change Math

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence is changing the world. We need to be also very aware that there is no way to predict exactly what students will need to know

The World Economic Forum lists similar skills needed in the workplaces such as complex problem solving, critical thinking, coordinating with others, cognitive flexibility and creativity. Math can offer learning environments supporting these skills, but then some things have to change in the contents and in teaching Math of today. Maybe we are even forced to make the change because of Artificial Intelligence (AI)!

The use of artificial intelligence in education will become increasingly common in the coming years. What seems to be possible in education is that we will have new applications of AI like:

  • AI for grading students’ written answers
  • Bots that answer students’ questions
  • Virtual personal assistants that tutor students
  • Virtual reality and computer vision for immersive, hands-on learning
  • Simulations and gamification with rich learning analytics

We have already examples: Scientists have developed an algorithm to match pupils with tutors, using artificial intelligence. Georgia Tech professor, Ashok Goel has used AI as a teacher’s assistant that answered students’ questions successfully. Robots have wrote essay of 6000 words, which has been better than many of the students’ essays. But the Bot has not understood what it has been writing!

What will be most important task of Maths? – Thinking should be one of the most important aspect of mathematics education. Great if AI can help us e.g. in grading and working as our assistant. What changes we can do in Maths education to be ready for AI?

Re-arrange the classroom

Instead of letting students to sit in rows, begin to vary how students work: individually, pairs and in groups. I try to get students to work regularly in different groups with a different assembly.  When one uses a method on a regular basis, students begin to accept it as a model. In my class students sit in groups of four and I tend to divide the students into groups randomly. I number the group tables and have four same number pads for each group in my number pouch.

When students are coming into the classroom they pick up a number pad from the pouch and go to the group which the number shows. Depending of the age they get tensed or slightly aloof with whom they are working. It is important that the schools deliberately mix the genders in the classrooms, train students to work in diverse groups and so support the growth and equality understanding.

Move more from teacher-centered towards student-centered

The structure of Math lesson seems to be very fixed and similar all over the world. What about starting the new concept in a different way? For example by giving students some problems related to the new content? Teacher is too often telling to students the new concepts and their attributes.

Examples where students can be more active in their learning are closer than you’re ever thought. In statistics for instance, let students collect data on aspects from their own life. In the beginning one can tell them to collect statistics from newspapers. When they are doing questions about them to each other, you can guide and make sure that axis etc. are being notified.  We often underestimate students. What has happened to the joy of learning math? Have we taken it away for no reason? At the same time students think that math is boring, meaningless and even frightening.

Use versatile teaching methods

Use more learning by doing and social learning –teaching and learning methods. We have huge amount of possibilities to use Learning by doing; modelling, classification, compare & combine, constructions of solids, action tasks, investigations and content creation.

How you usually teach estimation, which is the key to understand magnitudes? Maybe the following is a good alternative to your previous lesson about estimation!  If you combine estimation and rounding you will get a good learning entirety. You can do it for example like this: Bring to the classroom different amounts of different objects, like paper clips, nails, macaroni, beans, cord etc. Then put the objects on different numbered desks, let the students circulate and estimate the amounts without touching the objects. They make marks on their estimation tables and round the amounts to tens, hundreds and thousands. All the members in the group have to come to a similar understanding about the estimated amounts. When they have checked all the desks every group gets one amount of objects to count. Now they have a situation where they have to negotiate to find a sensible way of doing that. This is a very simple way to create a situation where students have to practice co-operation, negotiation skills and how to find a good strategy. After then the groups write down the exact amounts and the other groups practice rounding again. Very often the students notice that the estimated numbers are often too small. They also notice that the estimated rounding and the rounding of the exact amount can give them the same result. Conclusion; estimation skill is a marvelous skill!

Students have possibility to talk and debate in groups and find solutions together. Interdisciplinary Math and real-life related themes show students that Math is meaningful. Students need to be engaged, to get positive experience and even have fun during the Math lessons. Generally, Math lessons are more a bunch of routine computation exercises without real life connection and especially girls feel it cold and disconnected from their life. These are the three basic keys for waking up student’s interest and love for Math!  Hope AI forces us to change our Maths education.

-Maarit Rossi

Top 10 Finalist Global Teacher Prizes 2016

Founder & CEO, Paths to Math Ltd.

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