Maths and Beyond. . … applications for all subjects

by | Jun 6, 2017 | 0 comments

Authentic use of technology in teaching maths and applications for all subjects.

  • How can we create authentic learning experiences by embracing technology to enhance and enrich learning.
  • What works and what doesn’t as a Mathematics teacher, and how can this be can be applied to all subjects and stages?
  • How can we develop deeper understanding through content creation and creativity?

Introduction – for context!

This is a presentation by Rolfe Kolbe for Edutech 2017. It is written from my position as a maths teacher and Director of Learning Technologies K-12 at St. Andrew’s Cathedral School. A big part of my role is exploring how technology can be harnessed authentically and appropriately to enhance, enrich, extend and enable learning. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work across all year groups and subjects with lots of time spent in a wide range of classrooms. It is certainly an opportunity to have a good look at pedagogy to learn, reflect, respond and recommend.

The presentation is pulling together a number of thoughts and possibilities from within the maths classroom but particularly focussing on ways that this can be applied for all subjects or year groups. There will be maths examples as the context but hopefully, it is done well so that it is applicable to all with a focus on the reasons WHY and themes for successful integration of ICT.

For a bit of fun we need to have a game of Buzz word bingo as the presentation runs

An overview poster of the talk (created in OneNote on an iPad)

Firstly: Why Use Technology?!?

In the context of an Educational Technology conference you would not think there is much need for a start of “why use Technology?” but it does frame the presentation and get everyone on the same page. There are very few people who think there is no place for technology in learning but there is a lot of debate about how technology should be used in learning. Overall it is the responsibility as educators to embrace technology well for relevance and for the opportunities it enables. We also have the responsibility to find a happy medium.


What can technology enable?:

This is far from an exhaustive list, but technology enables greater investigation, research, communications, creation of content, access to materials and development of relevant skills. This, in turn, leads to building appropriate skills for today including all-important soft skills; organisation, communication, collaboration etc. Done well, using technology can also be enjoyable and engaging and can encourage creativity and innovation.


Soooo . .. what is possible!? Enrich – Enhance – Extend – Enable!?

Within maths learning there are a number of great options and themes that we can apply to just about all subjects. Some of the themes we will ambitiously try to explore and pull examples for in a twenty minute session as well as looking at learning by Content creation.

  • Investigation, research and exploration
  • formative assessment tools and feedback
  • Tools for help, support and extra practise
  • Skills from Maths that extend other subjects
  • tools and techniques for teaching with technology
  • Learning Management systems and their application
  • Professional Learning Networks

We will explore a number of techniques and tools that are successful in the mathematics classroom and how these can be applied to all subjects. There is way more content that our time permits so there are links to pages of content to explore further.


Investigation, Research and Exploration:

Just having the ability to go into more depth on a topic or lead learners to resources to read and reflect upon is an obvious and easy application. A great way to learn as a teacher as well. For example, the other day we were finding the diagonal length of our classroom using Pythagoras Theorem (fun stuff!) and we wondered if there was a name for the diagonal across the room and sure enough . . .. … there is! The “space diagonal” pretty cool name hey. This led on to “face diagonals” which made a lot of sense and gave relevance to the question. This, in turn, led us to explore Pythagorean Quadruples in cuboids which are a whole lot of fun. I will let you explore those yourselves! Go on Google it! The point is that the lesson and the work around Pythagoras was so much richer through the investigation of one term and came about through being led by inquisitively.

Investigation and exploration tools:

There are great tools, services or apps for most subjects. Maths has a number of crackers. I have chosen to highlight a couple of tools and why they make the learning better.
GeoGebra: (clever name) This powerful tool takes a bit of getting used to but is superb for investigating patterns and properties. The GeoGebra community is huge with Geogebra tube and other great resources all ready to be used, built upon, shared or embedded. Geogebra files can be embedded into pages when a concept just wants to be highlighted too. Check out for more details and examples, including an embedded bit of locus fun.

Desmos Calculator (and Classroom and Now Desmos Geometry): again just a superb tool for investigating properties and patterns. Users can easily graph to compare and contrast and recognise features. The tool changes the emphasis of a lesson to be about what is happening and why as opposed to labourously plotting and hand drawing each graph. Users can go into far more depth with the content and they ask different questions as they explore. Read more about Desmos Calculator and classroom on


Formative Assessment Tools and Feedback:

Formative assessment is particularly great to get a temperature check or pinpoint issues in the classroom. There are a plethora of tools and a number are highlighted with a great overview and outlines on our page pulled together by Elle Smith. Many of the tools enable the option for recording results if users have accounts. The more seamless the exercise and the more sustainable the solution the better!! (ie can you find or share content.) Tools like Kahoot are a lot of fun but students that are a bit slower or make mistakes early can often switch off.

Tools that also tick other boxes are worth exploring further so let’s have a look at a couple that also build on Soft Skills.

goformative!!! this is a newie for me and I was only shown it the other day in an all-staff meeting by our Head of Science Bec Collett. I have since tested it out and it certainly has legs. It is superb! I look forward to using this more but for now, some details and information can be read on our goformative page:

Quizlet and Quizlet LIVE: Tools like Quizlet are superb with so many quizzes already created that you can use but particularly harnessing Quizlet Live which also builds on soft skills with students in making them move into groups and communicate in the group while competing against others is pretty cool. Check out the review and overview of Quizlet and Quizlet live at


Tools for help, support and extra practise:

There are a myriad of tools to aid in this area, in fact, it is a little like drinking out of the fire hydrant (to coin a phrase) so choosing an appropriate tool that works for you is important. There are so many so let’s focus on some great ones out of Sydney.

First up from the newest mathematics teacher celebrity and quite rightly so we have Eddie Woo of fame for brilliant examples of passionate teaching and great explanations.

Next up out of Sydney, we have from Simon Job which just gives really useful and easy to use materials through a sharing community. I really like the maths starters and reckon they would be good for any subject hehe. A superbly designed website too!

All subjects have awesome folks like Eddie and Simon like this. they may not be out of your own city like these two are to me but finding great resources and sharing them is important for us all.

In relation to actual tools, This year I started using Mathspace and I have been seriously impressed on a number of fronts. I have found holes in my teaching at a glance and also been able to give tailored feedback to individuals as required which is proving to be a sustainable solution. Mathspace has a number of modes but I particularly like that it marks working out and gives feedback and support. Read more about Mathspace with screenshots and more detail at


Skills from maths  . . . …. and beyond

Coding and Computational thinking explicitly done with a maths example can be superb and some examples of this can be seen on out page.

Spreadsheeting often fits in with the maths department of a school and quite rightly so as it has so many great mathematical niceties. But it is so useful in other subjects and for life skills. Graphing and budgeting (side note graphing is so easily done in other ways) Check out some ideas for getting classes going with spreadsheeting including collaborative spreadsheeting on


Teaching tools and options:

mobility and handwritten notes: Firstly being mobile while projecting is one of the most powerful classroom management techniques and helps keep students from misuse of technology (of all sorts) When this is coupled with a bit of “Digital Ink” to write your notes then things can get special. Great options for this are OneNote (used for the poster sketch of this session done on an iPad) or notability app. Details of mobility are on and digital ink on

Learning Management Systems (LMS’s) there are heaps of these type of tools in free and paid form. Common tasks that are done well with LMSs are recording, disseminating and collecting information, marking, feedback and communications. LMSs can be used in full on depth as well with grade books rubrics etc etc etc or just used well in a simple way. Options are great.
discussions in maths can be really powerful giving the quiet student a voice, allowing multiple conversations at the same time, taking the learning and interaction beyond the classroom. Discussions are beautifully used across all subjects, for instance posting an essay introduction and then commenting on other introductions. For maths basically not getting too caught up in typing maths allows the questions to be answered and asked easily.


Content Creation – Why? What? How?

I personally believe that students learn more effectively when they are content creators.

Creating content builds better engagement, more enjoyment of the work as well as pride in work and memorable relevant outcomes. Creating content brings into focus a demonstration of understanding as you need to know the work to be able to explain it.

Creating content generally, leads to deeper learning which is great for “the test in twenty years” or even for the recall the next time the content is needed. There is, of course, a great bonus for everyone in that we end up with personalised, reusable resources. But a big product of content creation that excites me personally is that creating content usually enables and encourages Creativity.

content creation what why how


Professional Learning Networks, Sharing and Teachmeets:

There are so many people sharing content and wanting to help out. Building your own Professional Learning Network is a valuable thing to do. Great options are via Twitter or Facebook.Teachmeets are also a brilliant

Teachmeets are also brilliant. They are meetings where participants present short presentations, usually on a theme. Finding a teachmeet for your subject or other interest areas is highly recommended. Just Google Teachmeet and you will find local ones. Even better still, start your own teach meet!


In closing:

Although this has been done in context of a maths classroom with maths examples, I hope you have been able to find it relevant in some way or that some of the resources will be of use to others.