We brought together maths education experts from around the world for a series of online expert panels and webinars to consider how we can equip maths learners for the future – whatever that future looks like. This series of blog posts aims to highlight the key takeaways to help you empower today’s learners to embark on a lifelong adventure with maths through resilience, connection, curiosity, and creativity.
In this blog we summarise Professor Sugata Mitra’s webinar on digitalisation and the future of maths learning.
Professor Sugata Mitra is Professor Emeritus at NIIT University Rajasthan India. He is the recipient of many awards and honorary doctorates from India, the UK, USA and many other countries around the world. He is credited with more than 25 inventions in cognitive science and educational technology.
An overview of Sugata’s research
Sugata has spent his career exploring the effect of the Internet on children’s learning. Here’s an overview of his research:
1999: The hole in the wall, India
A computer connected to the Internet was embedded in a wall where it would be found by children who had never seen a computer before. Within an hour the children could browse and were discussing what they had found. If an adult tried to instruct them, they would stop, but without supervision, they were able to ask questions and find answers.
2007: Self Organised Learning Environments (SOLE), UK
Children were asked a complex question and left alone to find answers using the Internet. They self-organised and were able to grasp meaning by working together and correcting each other. Their individual comprehension or language levels didn’t matter: their comprehension as a group was far greater.
2010 The Granny Cloud, UK
Retired teacher volunteers were beamed into schools via video calls to operate a SOLE classroom, posing the right kinds of questions to capture children’s attention and to facilitate collaborative SOLE.
2013 The School in the Cloud, UK
Physical spaces were created inside schools where children could work in groups unsupervised and cluster around the Internet.
Using this research, Sugata and his team concluded that there are three main requirements for effective SOLE:
1. A big, interesting question
The teacher drives the process by formulating a ‘big’ open question. In order to open the door to self-learning, children must have something they need to find out, which helps them understand why they’re being taught what they’re being taught.
2. An unsupervised environment
The physical classroom becomes a student-centred workshop space, where self-learning can happen, and where the teacher no longer leads from the front.
3. Working in groups, clustered around the Internet
Children in groups can learn many things by themselves, and their comprehension as a group is far greater than their comprehension as individuals. It’s important that they use large screens so that they can see what other groups are doing, share ideas and self-organise.
The Internet and the future of maths education
The Internet has the power to awaken children’s interest in the process of learning. Seeing mathematics on a screen will begin a lifelong relationship.
Ideas for using visualisation to bring maths to life
Mathematics is essentially about patterns, and understanding these is what helps it to become clear and interesting. The digital medium makes that easy, so that maths is fun, interactive and impresses a picture rather than an equation into a child’s mind. Here are some ways that Sugata suggests visualising mathematical concepts in the classroom now – and in the future:
- 3D digital imaging – building coordinates, curved coordinates and more on the screen, without having to explain them.
- Simulation – where a physical object doesn’t exist, computers allow you to simulate it.
- Data visualistion – seeing numbers not just as numbers, but as visible data.
- Statistics – brought to life using digital techniques that show and convey more information. Ask children: what’s the best way to show it?
- Visualisation of equations – a way to show children that equations are patterns, shapes, curves that intersect, and how they depict reality.
You can watch the full webinar ‘Digitalisation and the future of maths learning’ here. (Note: you will be taken to a sign-up page and asked to enter your details in order to access the recording).
Sugata also took time to answer questions from the audience after his webinar and shared more of his top tips to help maths teachers make the most of digital technology in their lessons. Read Sugata’s Q&A here.
For the next blog in this series ‘How to develop a growth mindset in your students’ by Dr Jennifer Chang click here.
Digital maths learning with MyMaths
MyMaths is an online resource that can be used flexibly with your school’s existing maths resources. The digital format engages children and saves teachers’ time. It also offers uninterrupted learning between school and home, as it can be accessed anywhere with an internet connection.
Sign up for a free trial at mymaths.co.uk to see the benefits of this digital platform for yourself, including:
- Ready-made interactive lessons that you can use for front-of-class teaching or with smaller groups on laptops or tablets. Children and caregivers can also access them at home. These highly visual resources allow children to see maths in action on the screen through clear animations and diagrams. This visualisation is key for bringing maths to life, helping children to recognise patterns and understand mathematical concepts.
- Self-marking homework activities that you can quickly assign to your whole class or to individual pupils. There is an online homework activity to match each interactive lesson.
- Automated results tracking that records your pupils’ progress for you. See each pupil’s individual progress, or see how your whole class is doing at a glance. Results are recorded in a traffic light colour-coded table for swift analysis, and can be downloaded for reporting. You are also able to see your pupils’ individual answers, whether you’re working from school or home.
- Rich booster packs to give your pupils targeted practice or revision where needed. The questions regenerate every time the page is refreshed to offer almost limitless practice. Perfect for building confidence and fluency in key areas.
- Customisable digital teaching tools for visual demonstrations at front of class.
- Much-loved games in a safe online environment.
- A dedicated parent/carer support area to help strengthen the home-school link.