educational technology

Visual-Dynamic School Mathematics
Using Technology for Implementing the 21st Century Pedagogy

 The Success Story                                                                                               Back to previous page


Yonat Story
by: Greg Wooton, math teacher

   I would have to say that it was the light in her eyes, reflecting her burning desire to want to understand, that changed my life so radically and has brought me to this place today. Yonat came into my "c-level" mathematics class at a time when I was contemplating leaving the teaching profession altogether. Years of unappreciated sacrifice, coupled with ridiculously low wages, had all but choked out what was left of the idealism that I had started with fifteen years earlier. Of course she would tell you a completely different story, of a teacher who believed in her enough to help her overcome nine years of being labeled a "special learning student"; but then, this is my version of her story.
   Yonat had been thoroughly tested by a battery of experts at her kibbutz in Israel. The verdict, handed down by this jury of educators, was that she did not have the mental capability to understand abstract mathematical concepts. Of course that had to be the answer, because she had no problem in her other subject areas, and had not yet achieved a passing grade in math since the first grade. Summoned to a special conference concerning Yonat, I was told to stop giving her false hope. She was a c-level, ninth grade student who would never be able to take Israel's matriculation exam at the end of the eleventh grade. This exam, called the "bagrut", is similar to the advanced placement calculus exam given in the United States. It is a very tough, three-hour examination, which determines whether a student graduates or only receives a "certificate of completion" from high school. The stigma of not passing the bagrut exam then haunts the student throughout his or her mandatory years of military service after high school, and beyond. 
   We applied for and miraculously received a thousand dollar grant from our school to purchase ten copies of a new software program that been created by Dr. Joseph Dalin, called MathematiX. Without getting into too many technicalities, this software transformed the learning functions for these students, and suddenly math became a visual language.


   Analytic geometry, trigonometric functions, differential and integral calculus became easily comprehensible to Yonat and to her class, because they could view the subject matter, quickly manipulate the parameters and zoom in on specific areas on each graph.
   The Hula Valley Regional High School, where I taught, had recently purchased an elaborate computer class network with twenty new computers. We literally begged for every hour we could be allowed to work in that room. 
   Technology was a big key, but it was the change in heart and attitude, which ultimately made the difference. We quickly learned how to enjoy learning.
   Over the next three years, each student was required to maintain an 80 average to continue the following year. Students were allowed to talk to each other quietly in class, but only about math. Students who didn't comprehend as quickly were encouraged to work together with those who did. After so many years of teaching, I had stopped requiring kids to sit still, be quiet and stop learning. Our third year together as a group was the most exciting. I could leave the classroom anytime and return without worry, finding everyone still working diligently at the problems assigned. The students handled occasional disciplinary problems themselves, with Yonat leading the tongue lashing at the instigators of these disruptions. The students' parents and other teachers began witnessing a transformation in many other areas of these students' lives. Their enthusiasm and hype was contagious, and soon spread to other c-level classes in the school.
   At the end of the secondary school, sixteen of the original eighteen members of Yonat's class passed the bagrut examination. As expected by all of us, Yonat had attained the highest grade.



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