2006-11-02 / Schools
PDAs, not protractors, rule in today's math class
Students demonstrate use of new technology in mathematics studies
BY LAYLI WHYTE
RED BANK - In its third year, the state math and technology grant received by the borough Public School District has proven a boon for students in the Red Bank Middle School.
Oct. 10, eighth-grade middle school students gave a presentation to the Board of Education about how they have made use of the $400,000 Matrix grant, a three-year grant for the promotion of mathematics and technology for students and teachers.
The Math Achievement to Realize Individual Excellence (MATRIX) grant was awarded to the Keyport Public School District at the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year, and Keyport brought Red Bank into the program as a partner "high needs" district.
According to Jayne Frankenfield, technology coordinator for the borough school district, this year the Perth Amboy School District has also joined as a partner.
Over the past two school years, the grant money has purchased hand-held Palm personal digital assistants (PDAs) for each student in the seventh and eighth grades in both Red Bank and Keyport, and the students have used these computers in many different aspects of their schooling.
Seventh-grade teacher Denise Borns said she is very pleased with the tools the grant has provided both for herself and her students.
"It has been wonderful," she said.
Borns said that she has used the new technology the grant has provided for her class, both software and hardware, on class trips as well as in the classroom.
"Last year," she said, "we went on a walking trip to Marine Park and Riverside Gardens Park and did some geocaching. At the end of the year we went to Sandy Hook and the students did some geocaching there. Each year, we've built on what we did the year before."
Geocaching is like a modern-day treasure hunt, in which the "treasure hunters" use GPS (global positioning system) receivers and PDAs to locate objects hidden by others using coordinates, or "way points" provided by the second party.
The eighth-graders who presented at last month's board meeting were students in Borns' class last year, and explained how they have used technology to learn about directions, graphing and problem solving, and having fun while doing it.
The students learned some real-life applications of the work they were doing as well.
"Our Palms all have GPS," said eighth- grader Alexandria Pipitona. "In the real world, phones and cars have GPS, so that they can be found, or if you need directions from one place to another."
The grant also funded the purchase of old-fashioned compasses, which the students also put to use.
"We used both the compasses and the GPS units," said Elyse Frieri. "It was good to have the compass because the GPS units use satellites for information, and if it's a cloudy day, and the GPS wasn't working really well, you can use the compass to figure out where you need to go."
Alexandra Velazquez and Monica McKinney also spoke during the presentation about the ways their class used the GPS units for geocaching.
"You get hints," said Velazquez, "so that you can find what you're looking for easier."
Velazquez and McKinney presented a PowerPoint slide show about the trip their seventh-grade class took last year to Sandy Hook, looking for a geocaching site they found on the computer.
Borns said that after the trip, the class broke into groups and each group had to present a PowerPoint slide show they created themselves.
"All of the Palms have also Math Amigo on them," Borns said. "I put an assignment in Math Amigo and the students solve the problems. They can also keep track of their scores using Excel spreadsheets and figure out their averages on there as well."
"And if you don't do good on your assignment," said eighth-grader Anthony Wriston, "it tells you to go talk to the teacher."
Eighth-grader Samantha Reardon assisted in the presentation as well by running the laptop that projected images from the Palms and images of compasses used by the students.
"Technology in math class is very vital," Borns said.
Red Bank Schools Superintendent Laura Morana agreed.
"Obviously," she said after the presentation by the students, "the teaching and learning of mathematics have changed over time. This is not what I learned."