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Reviewing Resources in Math Tools

Wednesday's Daily Focus

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Craig Russell

Craig is an Executive Teacher at the University of Illinois Laboratory School Urbana, Illinois. To learn more about him, check out his Tool Fest '04 bio page.

Why bother? Well, don't you want to share your expertise with other teachers? Don't you want to make MathTools more useful for all teachers? When I look through the catalog for tools to use in my classes, I always look first at tools that are free (!) and second at tools that have good ratings and reviews. I don't spend time looking at tools that have poor reviews, but, because there AREN'T VERY MANY rated or reviewed tools yet, I DO have to spend a lot of time sorting through on my own. So please, do a service to our profession and use your vast experience to REVIEW tools that you use in class!

There are basically two kinds of reviews teachers can submit for a MathTool: one based on using it yourself or in class, and one based on how useful you think the tool might be. Of course, actual experience with the tool is more authentic, but you're all experienced enough to be able to spot a gem (or a clunker) if you run across a tool that you haven't used but might (or absolutely wouldn't). FYI, there is also a "student" option for reviews; I haven't yet tried to get my students to review anything.

The "Review" process starts from the tool's page. As I write this, I have another window active in which I'm reviewing a tool I used in class a couple of weeks ago. It might be helpful for you to go to a tool's page (from the catalog, click on "More" at the bottom of the catalog entry) so you can follow along (and have a completed review by the time you finish reading!) Alternatively, you could go to the tool that I reviewed and follow the actual review. Note: you must be logged in to MathTools to write a review.

I started from /mathtools/tool/18059/ and (since I was the first to review this tool) clicked on the "Be the first to review this tool" link, near the bottom of the page (if you're not the first, there is a link "add a review of this tool").

I was taken to a short screen where I identified myself as a teacher and said that I have used the tool in the classroom; then the screen expanded to ask for more information. Fields with asterisks (*) are required; others are optional, but helpful.

Classroom experience: I clicked on "Select Courses and Topics," which opened a new window listing courses. I clicked on Geometry, which opened the catalog listing for Geometry and I clicked on the topic most closely associated with my lesson objectives. It is possible to select more than one course and more than one topic within a course. I clicked on the radio button describing the duration of classroom use, then wrote fairly short blurbs under "What did students learn?" and "What did students do with the tool?". Students really enjoyed using the tool, so I said so under (optional) "Other classroom comments."

Purpose for this tool: Select one or more of the four purposes listed. Some tools might span several grade levels, so think beyond your specific use(s) for the tool. Comments are optional, but might help other teachers decide whether the tool would be appropriate for their students.

Learning to use the tool: For "What math do you need to know to use the tool" answer as best you can. For Kali, which would be appropriate for kindergartners or college students, the true answer is "None." However, to be helpful to other teachers, I elaborated on math knowledge my Geometry students needed in order to get the most from the tool. "What hardware expertise..." requires an entry; for most reviews I've written, "None" was my only entry. "What extra things..." is optional; sometimes I've had to make firewall or other downloading arrangements with my school's computer people. "How hard was it for you to learn?" requires a radio button entry and some elaboration. Comments are required; more details = more helpful, but sometimes "no comment" (or a couple of hyphens) will suffice.

Evaluation: Start with choosing a radio button assessing the tool's effectiveness "as a learning tool for you goals." [Here I wish there was an optional comment space (for any MathForum programmers reading through this far!)]. "Select Courses and Topics" takes you to a separate window just like the one you already filled out under "Classroom Experience"; use this if you can think of other courses or topics for which the tool is appropriate. Don't worry too much if you're not sure whether it is appropriate for a course you're not teaching! Finally, click on one of the stars to select a rating, then click on "Submit." If you were naughty and left a required field blank, the computer will alert you and give you an opportunity to repent.

Congratulations, you have just added to the usefulness of MathTools by submitting a top-quality review!


© 2003-2005 The Math Forum @ Drexel, part of NSF's NSDL
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DUE-0226284.
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.