Learn Math with Mallory Dyer
Mallory Dyer is a math professor from Coolidge, AZ. She just started a brand new online math tutoring website giving her students a new perspective on the concepts and help them to build confidence in their abilities. We have conducted an interview with her.
My greatest strengths at teaching and tutoring math are the individualized approach I take to each student, how I help students build confidence to overcome test anxiety, and that I show how to learn math in different ways. I understand everyone learns differently so I always have a personalized approach in my teaching method depending on what works for each student. I break down problems step by step to help build confidence and understanding, and I help give students a new perspective on math by showing how concepts can be done in various ways. I believe that many people “hate math” because they do not have a solid foundation on earlier mathematical concepts. Therefore, there are holes in their knowledge which prevent them from retaining information, connecting math topics, and moving forward in math. This is why so many students have test anxiety and do not have confidence in their mathematical abilities.
So when I teach math, I always break down the problems step by step and I ensure the student not only understands the steps but also, that he/she knows why we take that step. A lot of times, students do not even know where to start on a problem so I like to teach students to approach them as a puzzle and to break it down into smaller pieces to figure it out. So I not only help with math knowledge, I also help teach problem solving skills and deductive reasoning. I have also noticed a huge increase in the amount of visual learners today, so I incorporate videos where the students can see me work out problems and hear me explain the concepts using colors and graphics. I also promote interaction while teaching math and make it more hands on for my students. By seeing the problems fully worked out and interacting through problem solving step by step, my students gain confidence in their math ability and are able to retain information and overcome test anxiety.
How important is the 'new perspective' on concepts for learning Math?
Giving students a new perspective on concepts for learning math is extremely important. All it takes is one bad experience in a math class to forever impact a student and his/her thoughts and attitude on math. I strive for that “lightbulb” moment with each of my students and cannot wait for them to say “I am actually getting this!” When I work with a student, I right away find where their “holes” are in their math foundation. Then, when I work through problems with them, I spend extra time on areas where he/she may have more trouble or needs a more detailed explanation. I also show problems in various ways so that the students can learn different methods for solving, and also to show that there is not “one right way” of doing math. I do not teach math in a “paint by numbers” form where I have my students just memorize and plug and chug. Instead, I teach it in a problem solving manner so that students can look at a problem and break it apart to figure out how to solve it. This is what builds math confidence and a student’s ability to continue to move forward and succeed in math.
I also try to always relate math concepts to one another so that students can see how they all “fit” and are just pieces to a bigger puzzle. Relating concepts to things that students will see and experience in the “real world” is also a very important factor and they need to understand how math is used outside of the classroom and how it relates to real life. Students are also becoming more and more visual and I feel that is due to our society’s ever growing use of technology. Many people have some sort of screen in front of them at one point or another during their day and the screen is full of colors, animations and interactive features. Therefore, I believe math should be taught in this manner by using technology with colors and visual methods.
How do you define the level of confidence and understanding a student must have to master a new mathematical concept?
In order to master a new mathematical concept, a student must first have a solid foundation of the underlying topics. For example, if a student cannot do fractions, he/she will not be able to extend that knowledge and understand rational expressions. Therefore, it is all about a student’s foundation. Students do not only need to understand a concept, they also need to have confidence in how to approach problems and new topics. Once students understand the steps to solving a problem, they also have to understand why they took each of those steps. A student should also be able to solve similar problems and problems that relate other math topics.When a student reads a new problem, understands the goal of it, figures out how approach it and actually achieves the goal, then he/she has mastered a new concept.
What future technological changes do you foresee in 5 years, particularly in the way students are learning Math?
In the next five years, I foresee many technological changes in the way students are learning math. It is incredible how much technology has already changed the math classroom. Math has gone from books and paper/pencil to students doing work and taking tests on the computer. Many math classes are now even offered fully online containing videos, lectures and full coursework. I believe learning and teaching math is going to continue to become more and more visual and interactive. I think there will be many more apps to learn math concepts that will make learning math more like a game and fun.
I believe there will continue to be growth in computerized and tablet programs with ways for students to show their work on the computer. I think the amount of textbooks being used will continue to decline and people will move away from paper/pencil math to learning math through technology. Think about it this way, say you get a new smartphone and it came with a book of instructions on how to use it. Not many people would sit down and read through the instructional book, instead, they would start playing with the phone and take a “hands on” approach to figuring out how to use it. They may also go online to YouTube videos or tutorials to learn.
I know when I have a question now one of the first things I do is type it into Google. So we need to mimic the way students are learning other topics and how to do different things in the math classroom so that math does not seem so foreign. Students are so used to colorful screens and interacting on these, that taking notes off a PowerPoint or Whiteboard is not natural to them now. I believe technology will make learning math concepts into something that is very familiar with our society today.
Which features are available on your upcoming app?
The Graphlock app will turn a user’s phone into a scientific and graphing calculator. However, GraphLock has a unique lockdown feature that disables all phone functions (calls, texts, notifications) and turns the user’s phone solely into a calculator while in Lockdown Mode. GraphLock can also be used in non-lockdown mode where the user’s phone will function normally. GraphLock is designed to be used in classrooms and testing environments - per school policy.
With GraphLock, students will never have to carry around a calculator again! The calculator contains everything that a student needs to be successful in the math classroom. The scientific capabilities will include: arithmetic functions, exponentiation, square root, nth root, natural log, log base 10, log of arbitrary base, absolute value, decimals to fractions and approximation. The graphing capabilities will include; graphing up to five equations at once, graphs will be color coded and labeled, user may drag the graph or pinch to zoom in and out, user may find roots, intersections, trace the graph, and finding maximums and minimums.
How are students benefitting from it in comparison to what is already available?
GraphLock’s unique lockdown feature is what makes it different from other calculators and calculator apps on the market. Currently, students cannot use their cell phones as calculators in schools, however, close to every student that takes algebra in high school and college will need a graphing calculator for at least one course. I witnessed how the changes in our economy have greatly impacted my students. Now, many of them do not have the funds to purchase a graphing calculator and I have seen them struggle through math concepts because they do not have one. The other thing I have found is the students that do own a graphing calculator either do not know how to use it or do not carry it with them. That is what lead me to the idea of GraphLock, an affordable graphing calculator app that will lock down the student’s phone so that they will never have to carry around or buy a graphing calculator again. The other feature of GraphLock is that the calculator is very user-friendly and visual, where students can graph lines in various colors and there isn’t a bunch of extra buttons and functions. The app also mimics other smartphone functionalities where students can zoom in and out by pinching the screen and can trace the graph by touching the screen. Therefore, GraphLock is easy to use, is affordable to students and will help students to succeed in math!
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