Mobile Learning – In the Beginning, There Was the Abacus

“Math is hard. Math is complicated. Math is boring.”

Fortunately or unfortunately, math is important. Mathematics is the most widely used subject in almost every career, and often high paying jobs demand someone who can “do the math”.

According to 2007 Department of Education statistics, only 31% of eighth graders score at or above “proficient” level on standardized math tests. In some school districts, high-school-algebra failure rates approach 50%.

From the very first abacus, the teaching and learning of mathematics has always been a challenge. Over the last two decades educational ‘technologists’ have developed and studied uses of computers specifically for mathematics education. The necessity of a handheld device for mathematical uses has been in development for the past few decades.

The recent past saw advanced calculators created by a few leading makers, like Casio and Texas Instrument, which were designed to provide specific applications for mathematics learning.

Similarly, TI’s handheld mathematical PDAs offered solutions to many challenges such as helping teachers know which students had trouble with which mathematical concept in “real time”, and enabling students to independently experiment and explore concepts as they are taught.

The availability of a ubiquitous technology like m-learning can play an effective part in teaching and learning of mathematics.

In the article, “Cellphonometry: Can Kids Really Learn Math From Smartphones?” the writer details how schools are successfully partnering with mobile-phone companies to help kids conquer math. The results speak for themselves.

Similarly, an experiment conducted by the National Taiwan Normal University indicated that mobile learning improves students’ ability to connect the dots between mathematical theories and practical problem solving, as well as their attitude towards learning math.

The reason conventional math is considered tedious is often because lessons are taught as static numbers on a page. Math itself is an interactive subject, and students need to be able to visualize and grasp math concepts to understand them. Mobile learning enables just that.

By including video examples of data collection, animated graphs and packaging math lessons with unique embedded media, mobile learning lets students maximise the interactive nature of technology to effectively communicate what is otherwise a hard subject to learn.

Read more about Mobile learning in Mathematics


“Mobile phones in Education: the case of mathematics”, by Michal Yerushalmy & Oshrat Ben-Zaken

“Constructing Mathematic Paths in a Mobile Learning Environment”, National Taiwan Normal University, Lin-Jung Wu, Kao-En Chang, Hsien-Sheng Hsiao, and Yao-Ting Sung