How to integrate ICT

11th May 2001 at 01:00
TEACHING MATHEMATICS WITH ICT. By Adrian Oldknow and Ron Taylor. Continuum pound;18.99.

Browsing the maths section of a bookshop last year a I discovered an unforgettable slim volume on "taxi cab geometry". For me, Teaching Mathematics with ICT is going to be another such find. For one thing, it feeds all my own prejudices about ICT.

I began with the penultimate chapter, "Why integrate ICT into maths teaching?" An intriguing question to pose at the end of the book, why not at the beginning? The answer was refreshingly practical and honest. The authors "cannot identify overwhelming research evidence to support the claim that using ICT in teaching mathematics significantly improves students' learning of mathematics", but they argue strongly that the integration is desirable, inevitable and a part of public policy.

Returning to the front, I found the authors urging the readers, after the fashion of their in-service courses, to "start from the mathematics", a perspective that I have found to be very useful when working with teachers on my own in-service courses. ICT should serve the maths and its teaching, not the reverse.

In between, the book provides a personal inventory of hardware, software and other ICT tools, and leads readers into exploring some very interesting maths through ICT. It then places ICT alongside the maths curriculum, ientifying and exemplifying the use of ICT, before illustrating planning for using it effectively. The graphical calculator is given equal standing, but not equal space, with the computer and its associated software.

The great boon is the CD provided with the book, which contains the necessary software to allow the reader to replicate what is in the text, follow-up on suggested further explorations and develop expertise and confidence.

Not only does the book fascinate mathematically, it forces reflection on the use of ICT. The simple idea of using graphing software to match or reproduce a set of given graphs illustrates one of the many well-made points in the book: that the use of ICT often causes one to look at the maths the "wrong way round". Thus much algebra and calculus can go into the routine of sketching a curve, but constructing a curve from its graph reverses that process and forces a reconsideration of the deeper meanings of the roots of functions and related topics.

This is an excellent book and should be a part of the armoury of every teacher of maths. My only reservation is that the index is far too brief to be of any use. But did I need it? No, - the book and the CD were just too interesting to want to stop and look things up.

Tom Roper is senior lecturer in mathematics education at the University of Leeds

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