« June 2010 | Main | December 2010 »

September 01, 2010

Maths in Wonderl@nd- an Adventure in the Land of Mathematics

It's a Maths eTwinning project developed by 13-15 years old students from Italy (Liceo Ginnasio "Emanuele Duni", Matera) and Romania (School No. 195, Bucharest). The project aims to enhance the students' motivation by making Mathematics a learner-friendly subject, to help them discover and develop their creative, social, language, learning and ICT skills, by means of collaborative work and active learning. We want to show that Maths can be more than a class in the timetable, an exam subject, a compulsory and tedious work- it can be a world of imagination and creativity, populated by interesting and peculiar things, just like Lewis Carroll's book "Alice in Wonderland" is.

Its starting point are the mathematical allusions in the book, but the activities go beyond that, by searching for unusual Mathematical objects that can be recognized in our every-day environment, using the mathematical notions we get in class. Other aims are to promote team work, collaboration and mutual understanding, and to make students more aware about the main values of European citizenship and gender.
The @ in the project title emphasises that this Wonderland is also a world of ICT, of new teaching and learning tools. We used an on-line magazine , a blog , a loudblog, videos, Google Maps, animations, Voki, podcasts and other web 2.0 tools. Our TwinSpace is at http://new-twinspace.etwinning.net/web/p20278/welcome

Both the approach and the tools we used contributed to the innovative aspect of the project. The mathematical notions we studied were embedded in the common Maths curriculum: areas, perimeters, volumes, formulas, such as Gauss' formula or Heron's formula, the history of Mathematics, similarity, percentages, cuboids, powers etc. Since part of my students were facing the national examination this year, it was a good and enjoyable opportunity for them to revise or learn these notions. At the moment, our educational system is changing its focus from acquiring knowledge to acquiring skills and competences, the less abstract form of the mathematical content was very appropriate, because some of the tasks in the exam also have such a practical aspect.

The approach to such an "arid" subject as Maths is a new and creative one, students are encouraged to free their imagination and decipher the mathematical allusions in the book, but also search for more strange mathematical objects (such as the number Pi, the Moebius' band, peculiar numbers, magic squares etc.), facts or properties. Their curiosity and investigation spirit is thus stimulated, they get used to research and analyze rather than wait for ready-made knowledge, to look for unusual solutions (in the "Egg of Columbus" episodes), to use new tools for learning anytime and anywhere (animations, audio files, a loudblog). At the same time, we studied aspects of Maths in every-day life (such as Biology) and played Maths games (animated games in the blog as well as "Visiting Bucharest", a "treasure hunt" using Google Maps). Students were also interested in finding more about the history of Maths, famous problems and women Mathematicians. They particularly enjoyed the collaborative video making, as they had never thought videos could be a Math tool. They have seen learning as a complex activity and taken responsibility for heir research and knowledge, as well as had fun. In the same time we found out about each others' culture and every-day life. An important focus of the project has been the OCSE-PISA Mathematics framework and its four overarching ideas for Maths (Space and Shape, Change and relationships, Quantity, Uncertainty).

In this project ICT have been both a work instrument and a final goal. The publication tools we have used in order to obtain visibility for our work were the online magazine , the blog and the loudblog. The loudblog was a tool we all used for the first time, due to taking part in the eTwinning Podcasting Learning Event. It was a surprise to find out that podcasts could be used for Maths as well, and I was eager to put it into practice.

Besides that, we used an array of multimedia tools, in order to make the project enjoyable for the students and to offer them the means to express themselves according to their ICT expertise. We used Voki and Dvolver for personal presentations (in order to insure internet safety), online quizzes and Google Maps for tasks, Moviemaker and Slide for videos and slideshows, animation tools, puzzles, wordclouds, Photofunia, for games, Vuvuox for the final presentation and a wallwisher for the final messages, GeoGebra etc.

The main benefit of the project was enhancing the students' motivation, as they started to see learning and Maths in particular as a complex and pleasant activity. During the final Secondary School year, Maths is usually for them just as an exam subject, a compulsory and tedious work. Due to this project, they got a new approach and even had fun with this new kind of Maths, as they had never been involved in a Math project before, especially one using every-day related tasks and ICT tools that some were very keen of. The grades of the students involved improved and they had very good results in the National Examination. They have also improved their communication and teamwork skills, their level of using English, broadened heir cultural horizon. They particularly enjoyed playing the role of journalists in the online magazine and also creating the collaborative videos, both activities were new to them.
For me, it was an opportunity to use two of the tools I had learned about in the eTwinning Learning Events: podcasting and GeoGebra. It was useful to be able to practice with them and interesting to see the eTwinning activities converge towards the same learning aim.

Irina Vasilescu, School no.195, Bucharest, Romania