21st Century Learning Tools and You
Desmos.com. This is an online graphing calculator that can be used to help students see graphs as they are created and graphs in motion. It allows students to create pictures using math as well as identify the behavior of functions as they approach certain points. I have used Desmos.com as a substitute teacher and it has been a hit for the students. The students have communicated that it has helped them understand functions and what they were doing by seeing the changes in graphs as we changed the function. I have had some fun with students by creating pictures using the graphing calculator with their input. This was a little challenging because the students had to figure out what functions they would need to use to make the pictures look the way they wanted them to. I have used Desmos.com in my lesson plans but those uses of Desmos.com was just for fun. Desmos.com has many uses other than the fun ones I have discussed above. Desmos.com is useful for teachers with smartboards especially when trying to explain a concept like sine, cosine, and other trig functions. It is great for showing how functions that have inverses are related to each other. It is a great tool for a teacher and best of all it is free for all to use. I would recommend the use of Desmos.com to any math teacher. It is a great tool to use to explain functions using graphs.
Algebasics and GeoGebra. Algebasics is a site (much like Khan Academy but with much less content) that students can use for reinforcement of material learned in class. It explains different types of Algebra equations and goes through a verbal step by step process of how to solve these equations. It is a useful tool if you need additional help but it doesn't really offer too much. It is great for someone who doesn't want to be bombarded by an overwhelming amount of information but wants to understand the material better.
GeoGebra, on the other hand, has a lot to offer. Unlike Algebasics, you download GeoGebra to your computer or network (all free of charge) and use this graphing utility to solve all types of problems. To me, GeoGebra is great for introducing and explaining Geometry concepts and it can be used in the classroom and you can have your students play with the program at home on their personal computer. Yes, it can be used for Algebra and creating Spreadsheets and even some CAD designs but I haven't used it for those purposes as of yet; I am still learning the program. I do see this program as a great tool for Geometry teachers and possibly Algebra teachers as well.
MathPlayground.com. This is a great tool for Elementary teachers through 8th grade teachers. It is a website that is dedicated to learning math while having fun. I played some of the games on there that I thought were useful for introducing my Algebra students to certain topics and my son (who is in 6th grade) got interested in the games and wanted to play them also. This let me know that this was a good tool for students. My daughter, who is in 10th grade now and Algebra 2, was also interested in the games on this site. As math teachers, we have to find a way to make learning a subject most people think they aren't good in fun and attractive. MathPlayground.com is a site we can use to do this. You can explain to the students what they are learning while they are playing games and also explain why what they are learning is important for their future success. It is not advanced as Desmos.com but it is useful for students in lower grades who need to learn math but want to have fun while doing it. The tool does not really explain why certain things work so that would be left up to the teacher but it is a good homework assignment that allows students to think and have fun at the same time.