GeoGebra – the Great Equalizer in the Classroom

NOTE: The following post, with modifications, was submitted to the California Math Council ComMuniCator for the June 2012 issue with the title: “GeoGebra Promotes Equity in the Mathematics Classroom.

I had been looking several years for good classroom mathematical modeling software; when I discovered GeoGebra, it was an memorable day. I sat with a laptop in my recliner and didn’t get up for three hours, just playing and exploring. Whatever I asked GeoGebra to do, it did with ease and clarity. Since then I’ve used GeoGebra in all my classes, given many conference presentations, and become a Resource Manager and Trainer for the California GeoGebra Institute.

GeoGebra is particularly suited to promote equity in the math classroom:

  • It is free, open-source software
  • No internet connection is necessary
  • No programming experience is needed
  • It is intuitive, user-friendly, and easy to use
  • GeoGebra has been translated into 52 languages
  • It can run on all platforms since it is written in Java
  • There is a version for new/younger learners and users
  • There is a worldwide network of support from a user forum
  • It creates multiple representations as equations, graphs, tables
  • It can be used from primary grades through college level courses

In spite of affordability (FREE) of this software, implementation of GeoGebra is still not widely seen. When a teacher uses a software tool, it is much more likely that students will use it. Here’s my story about introducing GeoGebra in my classroom: I started the program and let students view it using my LCD projector; then I asked a student to come up and sit at my desk. I instructed her to press certain icons to create a diagram, and within two minutes she had stopped listening to me and was running the program on her own – it’s that easy! After giving a basic introduction to the program, all my classes were then able to visit our computer lab and create, explore, learn, and play with the mathematics in multiple representations.

Students easily use calculators because they understand the mathematics that the keys represent, and so I’ve been able to teach graphing calculator skills and mathematics concepts at the same time. It’s possible to do the same with GeoGebra, since there are few barriers to entry. Teachers accept and promote the use of calculators in learning much of mathematics; we should also promote GeoGebra in a similar, but stronger fashion, since the potential for learning is much greater.

GeoGebra was designed specifically for teaching mathematics and its rich multiple representation environment promotes exploring and creating virtual models and simulations. There is a large international support system of educators and an increasing number of articles, videos, books, and ready-made materials for classroom use. Those interested in the growing STEM education and collaboration movement will find this technology to be a welcome breath of fresh pedagogical air. For an idea of the popularity of this software, there were more than 7 million visits to the main GeoGebra website, www.geogebra.org, in 2011; the visitors came from 226 countries and territories. 

We need to provide free and open access to powerful mathematical modeling tools and strong curricula to all students and educators without regard to age or background. My verdict: GeoGebra is a sure winner, and I strongly encourage all teachers to get comfortable with this software so their students will be better able to develop mathematical minds with this easily accessible and friendly tool. Enjoy!

 

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