Students do not need a whole lot of convincing to use iPads, but many teachers, including me, struggle to find meaningful ways to use them in math class. Here are 3 ways I use my iPads that really enhance my math instruction and get the kids excited about using technology.
The iPad, unlike the iPhone and iPod, does not come with a built-in calculator app. For math teachers, I believe that this is a good thing, as it forces us to peruse the app store for a calculator app that meets our unique needs. For those who just need a simple calculator with basic functions, Calculator Pro is a great app. I like this one because you can buy “skins” to change up the look of it–there are a bunch of really fun ones available that kids are sure to love! Math Sheet is my scientific calculator app of choice, as it stores all your calculations in a list that you can see dynamically as you calculate. Math Sheet really emphasizes the importance of “showing your work”, as it shows students their “scratch paper” as they go. Finally, Quick Graph is the app I use for drawing graphs on the iPad. It is a powerful FREE graphing app that renders graphs in 2d and 3d space. It also allows you to enter equations in implicit form, not just “y=” like a regular graphing calculator.
2: PDF Reader
In my district, money is extremely tight this year. I have a class where we do not have enough books and I don’t know when some will be ordered. Luckily, I uploaded the PDF version of the textbook to my iPads last year. This allowed me to send home the books I had and use the iPads when we want to refer to the text in class. The iBooks app can be used to view PDF files. My students also like to take screenshots of problems or graphics from the text and paste them into their virtual notebook (we use Penultimate).
3: Communication Device
Last year, I used QR codes for students to get to my links on the iPads. This year, I disabled the camera app (this can be done in settings > general > restrictions) because it proved to be a huge distraction (need I say more???), so the QR code reader app will not work. Then, I realized that I could simply email links, as I had already set up a Gmail and Twitter account for each iPad. I have set up an email list so that I can push out whatever information/ files to the iPads that I want–instructions for projects, “e-handouts”, links to online tools and much more! I also like to use a VGA adapter (AKA “dongle”) to project students’ work on the board, a feature available on iPad 2s and 3s, which have built-in “mirroring” functionality. I bought styluses last year so students could use the iPads to take notes, solve problems and plug in to the projector to share their work with the class.
I did a measurement and statistics activity with my students last week where each child measured his or her height and foot length, and entered the data on a Google form using the iPads, as shown in photos above. I emailed the form to the iPads and projected the data as it populated my Google spreadsheet. We then used the data to create scatterplots and linear regressions on graphing calculators. There are many ways to use iPads in the classroom. I hope that you find what I have shared here useful, and I will be sure to share even more as I continue to use these tools with my students.