Mathematics, Earth & Physical Sciences

Mathematics refers to the study of numbers and their operations as well as of abstractions and space. Earth science is a broad term referring to the sciences involved in the study of the Earth and physical science refers to the sciences that study the nature of energy and matter.

As rigorous mathematics standards are implemented for all students, the appropriate role of technology in the standards must be clearly understood. The following consider­ations may be used by schools and teachers to guide their decisions regarding mathematics and technology:

  • Students require a strong foundation in basic skills.
  • Technology does not replace the need for all students to learn and master basic mathemat­ics skills. All students must be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide easily without the use of
  • calculators or other electronic tools.

In addition, all students need direct work and practice with the concepts and skills underlying the rigorous content described in the Mathemat­ics Content Standards for California Public Schools
so that they develop an understanding of quantitative concepts and relationships. The students’ use of technology must build on these skills and understandings; it is not a substitute for them

Technology should be used to promote mathemat­ics learning. Technology can help promote students’ understanding of mathematical concepts, quantitative reasoning, and achieve­ment when used as a tool for solving problems,
testing conjectures, accessing data, and verifying solutions. When students use electronic tools, databases, programming language, and simula­tions, they have opportunities to extend their comprehension, reasoning, and problem-solving
skills beyond what is possible with traditional print resources. For example, graphing calcula­tors allow students to see instantly the graphs of complex functions and to explore the impact of changes. Computer-based geometry construc­tion tools allow students to see figures in three-
dimensional space and experiment with the effects of transformations. Spreadsheet pro­grams and databases allow students to key in data and produce various graphs as well as compile statistics.
Students can determine the most appropriate ways to display data and quickly and easily make and test conjectures about the impact of change on the data set. In addition, students can exchange ideas and test
hypotheses with a far wider audience through the Internet. Technology may also be used to reinforce basic skills through computer-assisted instruction, tutoring systems, and drill-and-practice software.

The focus must be on mathematics.
The focus must be on learning mathematics, using technology as a tool rather than as an end in itself. Technology makes more mathematics accessible and allows one to solve mathematical problems with speed and efficiency. However,
technological tools cannot be used effectively without an understanding of mathematical skills, concepts, and relationships. As students learn to use electronic tools, they must also develop the quantitative reasoning necessary to
make full use of those tools. They must also have opportunities to reinforce their estimation and mental math skills and the concept of place value so that they can quickly check their calculations for reasonableness and accuracy.
Technology is a powerful tool in mathemat­ics. When used appropriately, technology may help students develop the skills, knowledge, and insight necessary to meet rigorous content standards in mathematics and make a successful
transition to the world beyond school. The challenge for educators, parents, and policymakers is to ensure that technology supports, but is not a substitute for, the develop­ment of quantitative reasoning and problem-
solving skills.

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