Karishma

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13 years, 213 days

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The most frequent question I get asked when presenting Maple Learn is: “How is Maple Learn different from Desmos?”  The second most frequent question is: “How is Maple Learn different from GeoGebra?”. And they are great questions! Why invest time in learning and introducing students to something new if it works and behaves exactly like something you already use? I certainly wouldn’t bother, and I can’t imagine that anyone else would either. So, in this post, I will do my best to articulate the differences as succinctly as possible, and we’ll be happy to arrange a demo for anyone who is interested in learning more.  Are you ready for another top 3 list!?

Disclaimer: Before we dive in, I’d like to start by saying that Desmos and GeoGebra are great tools. This post is not intended to disparage them. Rather my goal is to highlight the things that make Maple Learn unique.

So without further ado:

1. Maple Learn is the equivalent to doing math on paper, just better!

Maple Learn is akin to a digital math notebook. The canvas gives students the same feeling as solving a math problem on paper – the ability to work through a problem line by line, with explanations, notes, and additional calculations wherever they want them on the page – only with extras. Students can also use Maple Learn to perform tedious intermediate steps, see a graph to get a better sense of the problem, vary parameters to explore the effect on graphs and results, do a quick side calculation to double-check an individual step, and verify the final result.

2. Maple Learn takes a more holistic approach to learning

Where other tools focus predominately on visualization and getting the final answer, the Maple Learn environment supports much more of the teaching and learning experience.  Students can articulate their thought processes and mathematical reasoning using a combination of text, math, plots and images that can be placed anywhere on the canvas. Teachers can devise lessons in Maple Learn that focus not just on solving problems, but on developing skills in mathematical thinking, communication, and all the competencies and standards outlined in the curriculum. For example, instead of having your students work through the minutia of solving for x from two equations, you can create a document that focuses on having them set up the problem correctly, and then let them use the content panel to get the solution. Or you can use interactive supports, such as Algebra Tiles, to allow them to explain the concept of Completing the Square. Or give them an equation, and ask them to jot down features of the equation. The questions you can pose and the discussion that arises as a result is what sets Maple Learn apart from the rest. Because ultimately, the study of mathematics and science is about understanding, not the final answer.

3. Maple Learn is about math not commands

Maple Learn is an environment for learning math and math-based subjects, not about learning commands. So how do you perform an operation in Maple Learn? Easy! Maple Learn’s intelligent context-sensitive panel offers students a list of relevant operations to choose from, based on the mathematical equation or expression in question. This feature was first introduced in Maple over two decades ago, and it’s one of the most beloved features of students, teachers, and new Maple users, so of course we included it in Maple Learn. The context panel means that you and your students can focus on learning math not commands.

And here’s a bonus for making it all the way through:

4. You can pull math into Maple Learn really easily using the Maple Calculator

Let’s face it, for now at least, there will always be students who will feel more comfortable doing math on paper. It’s like tomato soup and grilled cheese – some things are meant to go together. So to make the transition from paper to digital easier, students can take a picture of their problem, or even their completed handwritten solution and bring them into Maple Learn instantly. That way, they can have the comfort of paper, AND the advantages of the digital environment. (I’d say something about having their cake and eating it too, but all this talk of food is making me hungry!)

One of the things I love most about my job is working and collaborating with math teachers across the globe. Every discussion leads to additional insights into the challenges facing teachers today, and new ideas on how to make Maple and Maple Learn better. And sometimes, I even learn some math I thought I already knew!

A few months ago, I introduced Maple Learn to a friend of mine who teaches high school math in Kingston, Ontario. I showed her how she could use Maple Learn to teach many concepts during our call, including Completing the Square. I walked her through Maple Learn’s free-form canvas and explained how her students could work through a problem line-by-line just as they would in their notebooks. I highlighted the live plot window and showed how her students could graphically verify that their solution was equivalent to the initial expression. And, I demonstrated the power of Maple Learn’s intelligent context panel and how her students could check their answers algebraically. I thought I had done a good job, until she said: “Karishma, that’s not how we teach Completing the Square anymore!”. Huh! I was floored. What I had shown was the way I had learned the concept so many years ago. I was surprised to learn that there was a new way.

My friend then introduced me to Algebra Tiles and how she used it to teach Completing the Square. Once we went through a few examples, I realized that I had never fully appreciated what I was doing when I completed the square. I had memorized a series of steps without really understanding what I was trying to do. The progression of our discussion naturally led to the inevitable question: “Karishma, does Maple Learn include Algebra tiles? Because that would be a game-changer for my students. Currently, we use physical tiles, but with remote learning, we need something digital.” At that time, my answer was ‘not yet’; however, with the introduction of image support last week, I’m happy to announce that Maple Learn can support algebra tiles and other interactive supports.

Here is the Maple Learn document I created on Completing the Square using Algebra Tiles.

Feel free to change the expressions listed in the document and share it with your students. To see algebra tiles in action inside Maple Learn, take a look at the short video that I created.  If you have any suggestions for improving this application, please feel free to let me know.

 


 

I’m very pleased to announce that the Maple Calculator app now offers step-by-step solutions. Maple Calculator is a free mobile app that makes it easy to enter, solve, and visualize mathematical problems from algebra, precalculus, calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations, right on your phone.  Solution steps have been, by far, the most requested feature from Maple Calculator users, so we are pretty excited about being able to offer this functionality to our customers. With steps, students can use the app not just to check if their own work is correct, but to find the source of the problem if they made a mistake.  They can also use the steps to learn how to approach problems they are unfamiliar with.

Steps are available in Maple Calculator for a wide variety of problems, including solving equations and systems of equations, finding limits, derivatives, and integrals, and performing matrix operations such as finding inverses and eigenvalues.

(*Spoiler alert* You may also want to keep a look-out for more step-by-step solution abilities in the next Maple release.)

If you are unfamiliar with the Maple Calculator app, you can find more information and app store links on the Maple Calculator product page.  One feature in particular to note for Maple and Maple Learn users is that you can use the app to take a picture of your math and load those math expressions into Maple or Maple Learn.  It makes for a fast, accurate method for entering large expressions, so even if you aren’t interested in doing math on your phone, you still might find the app useful.

Maple Learn is out of beta! I am pleased to announce that Maple Learn, our new online environment for teaching and learning math and solving math problems, is out of beta and is now an officially released product. Over 5000 teachers and students used Maple Learn during its public beta period, which was very helpful. Thank you to everyone who took the time to try it out and provide feedback.

We are very excited about Maple Learn, and what it can mean for math education. Educators told us that, while Maple is a great tool for doing, teaching, and learning all sorts of math, some of their students found its very power and breadth overwhelming, especially in the early years of their studies. As a result, we created Maple Learn to be a version of Maple that is specifically focused on the needs of educators and students who are teaching and learning math in high school, two year and community college, and the first two years of university.  

I talked a bit about what this means in a previous post, but probably the best way to get an overview of what this means is to watch our new two minute video:  Introducing Maple Learn.

 

 

Visit Maple Learn for more information and to try it out for yourself.  A basic Maple Learn account is free, and always will be.   If you are an instructor, please note that you may be eligible for a free Maple Learn Premium account. You can apply from the web site. 

There’s lots more we want to do with Maple Learn in the future, of course. Even though the beta period is over, please feel free to continue sending us your feedback and suggestions. We’ve love to hear from you!

A few weeks ago a television station in Toronto asked me if I’d share some tips on how parents could help their kids stay engaged with remote learning. My initial reaction was to run for the hills – appearing on live TV is not my cup of tea. However my colleagues persuaded me to accept. You can see a clip of that segment here - I’ve included it in this post because otherwise someone on the marketing team would have ;-)

My tips are based on a wide variety of experiences. My role at Maplesoft requires me to speak with educators at all levels, and remote learning has been a hot topic of conversation lately, as you can imagine. As well, in my past life (i.e. life before kids) I was a high school math tutor, and now as a parent I’m in the thick of it helping my son navigate Kindergarten remotely.

So here are my 5 tips on how parents of elementary and high-school aged children can help their kids stay engaged with remote learning. If you have other tips, including suggestions for university students, feel free to leave them in the comments sections. And if these tips help you, please let me know. It will have made the stress of my appearance on TV worthwhile!

 

Tip 1: Look for the positives

These are unprecedented times for kids, parents and teachers. Over the course of the last 6-7 months, learning as we’ve grown to know it has changed radically. And while the change has been incredibility difficult for everyone, it’s helpful to look for the positives that remote learning can bring to our children:

  • Remote learning can help some kids focus on their work by minimizing the social pressures or distractions they may face at school.
  • Older kids are appreciating the flexibility that remote learning can offer with respect to when and how they complete their work.  
  • Younger kids are loving the experience of learning in the presence of mom and dad. My 4 year old thinks it’s awesome that I now know all the lyrics to the songs that he learns in school.
  • As many remote learning classrooms include students from across the school board, this can provide kids with the opportunity to connect with their peers from different socio-economic backgrounds living across the city.

 

Tip 2: Don’t shy away from your kid’s teacher

While some kids are thriving learning from home, we know that others are struggling.

If your high school student is struggling at school, do whatever it takes to convince them to connect with their teacher. If your child is younger, make the connection yourself.

In my role, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many teachers, and rest assured, many of them would welcome this engagement.  They want our kids to succeed, but without the face-to-face classroom interaction it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for them to rely on visual cues to see how your child is doing and if they are struggling with a concept.

So I encourage you to reach out to your kid’s teacher especially if you notice your child is having difficulty.

 

Tip 3: Get creative with learning

Another benefit of remote learning is that it presents us with a unique opportunity to get creative with learning.

Kids, especially those in middle school and high school, now have the time and opportunity to engage with a variety of different online learning resources. And when I say online learning resources, I mean more than just videos. Think interactive tools (such as Maple Learn), that help students visualize concepts from math and science, games that allow students to practice language skills, repositories of homework problems and practice questions that allow kids to practice concepts, the list goes on.

Best of all, many content providers and organizations, are offerings these resources and tools available for free or at a substantially reduced cost to help kids and parents during this time.

So if your child is having difficulty with a particular subject or if they are in need of a challenge, make sure to explore what is available online.

 

Tip 4: Embrace the tech

To be successful, remote learning requires children to learn a host of new digital skills, such as how to mute/unmute themselves, raise their hands electronically, turn on and off their webcam, toggle between applications to access class content and upload homework, keep track of their schedule via an electronic calendar, etc. This can be daunting for kids who are learning remotely for the first time.

As a parent you can help your child become more comfortable with remote learning by setting aside some time either before or after class to help them master these new tools. And since this is likely new to you, there are some great videos online that will show you how to use the system your school has mandated be it Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom or something else.  

 

Tip 5: It’s a skill

Remember that remote learning is a skill like any other skill, and it takes time and practice to become proficient.

So remember to be patient with yourself, your kids, and their teachers, as we embark on this new journey of learning. Everyone is trying their best and I truly believe a new rhythm will emerge as we progress through the school year.

We will find our way.

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