**Relative Advantage of Instructional Software**

Instructional software has become an integral part of nearly every level of high school mathematics education. There are so many different tools now available to math teachers to help their students in every level of math. Software can help students and teachers manage and organize information, assist with group work and provide additional practice of basic and higher level skills. Instructional software enhances the educational experience allowing students to see and feel math concepts, become involved in the math process through the collection and/or interpretation of data, and transform mathematical ideas into something a student can relate to.

Math has a plethora of instructional software options available for every age and ability. At one time, integrating technology into a math curriculum meant having students perform drill and practice sets on a computer. Now, the new types of software can do so much more and are instrumental in creating a solid foundation for basic math skills upon which students can build more advanced skills. The majority of software options still provide drills but there has been an explosion of software options that provide activities, simulations, games, tutoring and even lesson plan ideas. All of these options can be used to enhance instruction and make the learning environment more engaging for students.

Math has always required students to memorize formulas and apply problem solving skills. Now, through a variety of software options, students can be inspired and motivated. Roblyer and Doering (2013) assert that integrating software in education will help to improve student motivation, engagement and overall success (p.100). They outline five instructional software funtions:

- Drill and Practice
- Tutorial
- Simulation
- Instructional Games
- Problem Solving

In mathematics, one of the biggest obstacles is the need for students to be able to ask questions. Math is best facilitated by interactions between teachers and students. It is critical that the teacher select the appropriate level of educational software for each course. The software should enhance the overall curriculum and engage the students.

**Relative Advantage Chart for Instructional Software for Algebra**

Adapted from http://www.education.com/reference/article/technology-solutions-potential-high/

Mathematics Issue |
Technology Options |
Relative Advantage |
Expected Outcome |

Mathematical concepts are abstract | Geometer’s Sketchpad | Graphics displays make abstract concepts more concrete. | Students can manipulate systems to see how they work. |

Calculations are time consuming | Microsoft Excel | Takes low-level labor out of high-level tasks. | Students can focus on learning high-level concepts and skills. |

Students find basic skills practice boring | Math.com | Attention-getting displays, immediate feedback, and interaction. | Creates motivating practice for Students. |

Students cannot see application of math skills | Algebrator | Project-based learning using these tools establishes clear links between skills and real-world problems. | Students will be able to connect skills to application. |

Students need individual review. | Khan Academy | Provides structured, self-paced environments for individual review of missed concepts. | Students will be able to catch up more quickly or are able to keep pace. |

(Roblyer & Doering, 2010)

The main relative advantage of instructional software in my classroom is that students are able to practice and reinforce the skills and concepts that were presented. Students that struggle with comprehension can go to videos on several different sites to see how different teachers explain what was taught in the classroom. The primary types of instructional software most utilized by my high school algebra students would be tutorial, along with drills, through Khan Academy. This is a fantastic resource for student who may need reinforcement or alternate explanations. There are numerous videos and presentations explaining virtually every algebraic concept. In addition, there are practice problems that students can work out on their own to make sure they understand the material. Khan Academy also has coaches available to help and helpful hints on how to proceed to the next stage of a problem. Instructional software provides the students with more than one explanation and allows them to connect with what was learned in class.

There are many advantages to using software. Using software programs can make learning more engaging and interactive. Through this interactivity they are more likely to retain what they have learned and more likely to be able to apply what they have learned now and in the future. Technology can also help motivate students with their classwork and homework and elicit long term interest in the subject matter.

**Resources:**

Diez, D.; Fernandez, C.; Dodero, J.M.; Diaz, P.; Aedo, I., “Instructional Software Analysis: Lessons from Software Development Process Improvement,” *Advanced Learning Technologies, 2007. ICALT 2007. Seventh IEEE International Conference on*, vol., no., pp.499,501, 18-20 July 2007 Retrieved from URL: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=4281077&isnumber=4280927

Roblyer, M.D. & Doerling, A.H. (2013). *Integrating educational technology into teaching *(6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Roblyer, M., & Doering, A. (2010, July 20). *Technology solutions with potential for high relative advantage*. Retrieved from http://www.education.com/reference/article/technology-solutions-potential-high/

Hello,

I enjoyed reading your blog on the benefits of instructional software within mathematics. This was beneficial because it gave me insight into a different content area and the use of instructional software from my own, which is language arts. I like how you used the terms of “seeing and feeling math concepts”. The differences that you described of the relative advantages of instructional software within mathematics seem really beneficial to meet the different learning modalities of students. I agree with you that the instructional software incorporated within a content area should be engaging and reinforce the concepts being taught. I look forward to exploring math.com with some of my students in reinforcing some of the basic math skills.

Mariel Zamora

I too focused on the use of more “drill and skill” options for my content area (music and performing arts). The use of these options really does help solidify the acquisition of new skills while allowing the students to work/learn at different speeds. I have a question for you. With so many software options for Math teachers, especially with new content being released geared towards Common Core standards and integration, do you see the amount of choices as a deterrent to software use? Can teachers get overwhelmed with the choices and does that in-turn lead to a lack of software integration in the classroom?

Kimberly,

As a math teacher, I also appreciate that tutorial videos online expose students to different teaching techniques and therefore, broaden there knowledge. I can see that you have an extensive experience teaching mathematics, and I am sure that implementing instructional software can make your task a little more challenging.