After being taught to use the Internet by the Geometry Forum in October, we were eager to get our students involved in a math project using the Internet. Annie Fetter, Project Coordinator of the Geometry Forum, put us in touch an Instructional Technologist at a State University outside Pennsylvania. She was interested in locating several elementary math teachers willing to assist her with a math and communications project. We saw this as our opportunity to implement the NCTM standard relating writing and mathematics. She wanted her present group of student teachers to have firsthand experience working with math and elementary school students. We immediately responded to her request and the ground work was set for the project.
Our goal was to have our students begin talking and writing about mathematics. We decided to involve our 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade math students. Each grade was divided into small groups of three or four students. Twelve small groups were formed and matched with twelve different student teachers. This project began mid-January with the student teachers sending a problem for his or her math group. We talked to our students about electronic mail and the speed in which it is transmitted. We looked at a map and located Iowa, estimating its distance from Pennsylvania. Some problems were very easy at first, others quite challenging. Our students worked cooperatively to solve the problem and recorded their results in a log book, explaining how they arrived at their answer. It was interesting to observe the groups in action, agreeing and disagreeing on how to solve the problem. There were times when some groups had a hard time figuring out what to do so they had to e-mail their student teacher and ask for help. Most weeks, the problems went smoothly and the children went to the computer room and e-mailed their solutions to their student teacher. Our students were always asking, "Did we get e-mail today?" The enthusiasm for using this technology was great to witness. The children were in awe every time they watched their work get transmitted. As a culminating activity in May our students posed the final problem for their student teacher. It was interesting to see the types of problems our students sent. They were given the option of using some source to find a good question or writing their own problem.
After several weeks into the project we sent pictures of our students to the student teachers. The student teachers reciprocated and our students were so excited. It added a very personal complexion to the project. We made zerox copies so that each child in the group received his or her own copy. The original photographs were used to create a bulletin board for math month. As a side benefit to this math project, our students learned how to use the Internet to send and receive e-mail. Caroline Brennan and Joanna Yantosh