Technologists: Why are math and math teachers hard to support?

I wanted to get wiser about how instructional technologists interact with math teachers. In particular, I wanted to know what makes math teachers more reticent to adopt technology than teachers from other disciplines.

Alice Keeler offers professional development in technology much more often than I do and echoed the question:

Here are the primary reasons for that disconnect I received on Twitter:

Technology is a distraction from content and assessment objectives.

Computers are not a natural medium for doing mathematics.

Generally, it’s hard to break from tradition.

There are more applications for the humanities than for math.

Math edtech often focuses on routine math knowledge.

Math anxiety and technology anxiety compound.

Finally, here is a strategy for working with math teachers that sounded promising to me.

Thanks for educating me, everybody.

1 Comment

  1. Reply

    I missed the original posting on Twitter, but will share here as I have several thoughts.

    I do think there’s a serious chicken and egg situation. Teachers and admins alike often believe that it’s a given that English and History teachers have to have tech for research/writing. So, often, math teachers have to rely on the scraps. In my district, when math teachers sign up for a cart, it is very common for English or History teachers to ask a math teacher to give it up for the day because there is an important project they need their students to finish. HOWEVER, in my district when we gave math teachers their own carts, exclusively for them, their use of tech increased exponentially. They have a cart of 1/2 the amount of Chromebooks as they have students. When asked recently if they prefer this for next year or would prefer sharing a full cart with just 1 other teacher, 100% responded that they want their own 1/2 cart, explaining that not having to negotiate and share with English/History teachers was important as in the moment, how do you evaluate who ‘needs it’ more? Having said that, some are still reluctant. I think often in a math class, use of tech is just for a portion of class: to model an idea, check your intuition of a solution, etc. Often teachers don’t want to take the time to get the tech out and put it away for only a portion of class. Having your own cart goes a long way to eliminate the time issue here.

    Second, as others mention, the vast majority of folks in the TSA/Instructional Tech world are not math people. In fact, as others have mentioned, they come right out and tell you that. In my instructional tech department, no one (but me) wants to touch math lessons as they feel they don’t know the content well enough. I haven’t done a good job of building capacity in my department to have TSAs comfortable doing model lessons in math classrooms, even 3rd-5th grade. So tech tools which are non-content-based and can be used in any discipline to impact pedagogy and learning (Pear Deck, Nearpod, Kahoot, Google Forms, Explain Everything, Screencastify, Flocabulary, etc etc) aren’t often used in PD with math teachers because there simply aren’t enough district TSA folks comfortable with the math audience.

    And then there’s time. I think many teachers feel that no matter what, they still need to teach an idea themselves so there’s not ‘time to do it twice’ using tech. I agree with Jade’s sentiments on that one. Those of us in the instructional tech world have to keep working hard towards shifting pedagogy to become less traditional.

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