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So, I went back to my Math teachers, ready to show them the app that would end Math homework as they knew it…forever.I know there is a big debate over the practicality of homework in general.
It was not about using the latest and greatest technology to combat Photo Math. There was no reason to continue giving the same homework each night to students who could answer every question with Photo Math.
It was not about taking the focus away from mathematical concepts. Were there times they would still give problems and practice them in class? Were there times students would take problems home to work on and study? Yet, in the long run, something needed to change in order for the students to be successful.
They brainstormed a number of options which included three viable solutions: Although options 1 and 2 were still going to be used, our teachers selected the video tutorials as the main focus for homework moving forward in most math classes.
The Buck Institute describes Project Based Learning as a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.
In order to do this, the students had to go through a sustained inquiry process in which they tested different problems and ways to display the problem (as a puzzle or word problem).
This involved having test groups to answer their problem and developing ways to make sure it was “Photo Math” proof.It was towards the end of the third marking period a few years ago when my Math teachers in our middle school came up to me.“AJ, I think we’ve got a problem, hoping you can help.”“Sure”, I said, “What’s going on? Almost all of our students are turning in their homework.We usually check for completion, but when this started happening it was unusual.”I responded, “That’s a good thing, right?The Gold Standard PBL Essential Elements are as follows: We were already making the shift as a district towards authentic PBL across subject areas, and our teachers believed this was the perfect opportunity to give PBL a shot at tackling the math homework issues.For each unit, our teachers would now define a math project that would last the entire unit but would be worked on nightly by each student (or group of students depending on the class, subject, and age). Phase 1First, students would create their own video tutorials (screencasts) solving math problems that were relevant to the concepts being taught during the unit.A few weeks later, they came back to me.“It hasn’t stopped.And now we are getting complaints from parents.”I laughed, even though they seemed serious.“Why are you getting complaints?This would include math problems that were teacher provided, problems they found online, and in a textbook or resource.The screencasts would be created using tools such as Screencast-o-matic or Screencastify, and they would have the students’ voice overlay the writing of a problem and solution on a whiteboard.The creator of Socratic just open sourced its step-by-step solver, called mathsteps.There are a lot of computer-based algebra solvers out there, but for Socratic they had to do some extra engineering to get at the steps a human would need to solve the same problem. No human input needed to solve equations, only a smartphone, and the app with a camera.