To integrate AI or not? That is the question.

December 2023

Two teachers using a laptop

In the mid-1980s, there were rumblings from some teachers about the use of calculators in the math classroom. “Students need to know their basic facts!” “Students don’t notice if an answer is absurd if it is on the calculator; they just believe it.” “Students are just mindlessly pushing buttons; they are not thinking!” For several years, I heard of some teachers encouraging the use of calculators while others were trying to ban them. 

While there are still a few hold-outs who do not allow their students to use calculators, many recognize that banning them is a losing battle. Most teachers understand that by using the calculator to do the menial math work, students could spend more time and mental energy on understanding the concepts. It was not necessary to spend several lessons teaching students how to calculate a square root by hand (yes, there is an algorithm for that), for example. The time could be spent working on real-world problems in which square roots arise naturally. This meant, however, that what should be taught in math classes and how would need to change. 

The rumblings I am beginning to hear about artificial intelligence, like ChatGPT, sound reminiscent of those long-ago laments about calculators. This time, it is not just the math teachers who are raising an alarm: language arts teachers are joining the chorus. 

However, outside the field of education, some doctors believe AI can save lives. A long-term trial of 80,000 women in Sweden showed that when AI read mammograms, it detected 20% more cases of breast cancer than the standard practice of two radiologists reading the images, checking each other’s diagnosis. Promising results. But, some medical personnel are uneasy about turning the reins over to AI. Do we really want a machine making life-or-death decisions? What if the AI made an incorrect diagnosis – who would be responsible? Can an AI really take the place of a caring nurse? Does using AI mean we do not need as many medical personnel?

While concern may be growing, responses from leaders in education and other industries are not keeping up. The issues are nuanced. Whether or not to use AI is not black and white and many of us are not comfortable sitting in shades of gray. Only two states, California and Oregon, have provided schools with guidance on using AI. So, what are teachers to do if they do not live in California or Oregon (or maybe, even if they do) and they need guidance on the use of AI?

It might help to accept that AI isn’t going away. All the cacophony about calculators did not keep them out of classrooms. Teachers adapted. The same will be true for AI.

We must understand that the use of AI will exist in shades of gray for a long time. It may never have easily defined guidelines in the classroom. Think of the medical example: an argument can be made for both sides of whether or not to use AI to read mammograms. Solutions lie somewhere in the middle.

We can reframe our thinking to see beyond AI as just another form of cheating. While AI can do more than a calculator, it still requires the user to pose the right question, make sense of the response, and determine whether that response is reasonable. 

We can focus on the ethics of AI. When would it be acceptable to use it for schoolwork? Rarely will the answer to this be black and white. Students, teachers, and everyone should think in advance about whether and how it might be appropriate, rather than scrambling for excuses after the fact. 

Just as what and how math is taught had to change when calculators became ubiquitous, it might be that teaching math will change again. So make friends with AI. Generative artificial intelligence can really do some amazing things. Take advantage of the help it can offer and enjoy it. 

Ask yourself, How might you utilize AI for learning in your math class? Begin thinking and planning sooner rather than later. You might be able to make small tweaks in your practice as you learn more, and won’t be caught unaware and wondering what to do as the use of AI spreads. Remember that AI is great at doing things that can be automated, so AI support means you can focus on the things that math teachers do best: teaching critical reasoning, problem solving, creativity, and all the other fun things you wish you could spend more time on!

Karen Wootton

Karen Wootton

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Algebra Tiles Blue Icon

Algebra Tiles Session

  • Used throughout CPM middle and high school courses
  • Concrete, geometric representation of algebraic concepts.
  • Two-hour virtual session,
  •  Learn how students build their conceptual understanding of simplifying algebraic expressions
  • Solving equations using these tools.  
  • Determining perimeter,
  • Combining like terms,
  • Comparing expressions,
  • Solving equations
  • Use an area model to multiply polynomials,
  • Factor quadratics and other polynomials, and
  • Complete the square.
  • Support the transition from a concrete (manipulative) representation to an abstract model of mathematics..

Foundations for Implementation

This professional learning is designed for teachers as they begin their implementation of CPM. This series contains multiple components and is grounded in multiple active experiences delivered over the first year. This learning experience will encourage teachers to adjust their instructional practices, expand their content knowledge, and challenge their beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers and leaders will gain first-hand experience with CPM with emphasis on what they will be teaching. Throughout this series educators will experience the mathematics, consider instructional practices, and learn about the classroom environment necessary for a successful implementation of CPM curriculum resources.

Page 2 of the Professional Learning Progression (PDF) describes all of the components of this learning event and the additional support available. Teachers new to a course, but have previously attended Foundations for Implementation, can choose to engage in the course Content Modules in the Professional Learning Portal rather than attending the entire series of learning events again.

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Building on Instructional Practice Series

The Building on Instructional Practice Series consists of three different events – Building on Discourse, Building on Assessment, Building on Equity – that are designed for teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM instructional materials and who have completed the Foundations for Implementation Series.

Building on Equity

In Building on Equity, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Essential questions include: How do I shift dependent learners into independent learners? How does my own math identity and cultural background impact my classroom? The focus of day one is equitable classroom culture. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture. The focus of day two and three is implementing equitable tasks. Participants will develop their use of the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Meaningful Mathematical Discussions and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will use an equity lens to reflect on and revise their Chapter 1 lesson plans.

Building on Assessment

In Building on Assessment, participants will apply assessment research and develop methods to provide feedback to students and inform equitable assessment decisions. On day one, participants will align assessment practices with learning progressions and the principle of mastery over time as well as write assessment items. During day two, participants will develop rubrics, explore alternate types of assessment, and plan for implementation that supports student ownership. On the third day, participants will develop strategies to monitor progress and provide evidence of proficiency with identified mathematics content and practices. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

In Building on Discourse, participants will improve their ability to facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. This learning experience will encourage participants to adjust their instructional practices in the areas of sharing math authority, developing independent learners, and the creation of equitable classroom environments. Participants will plan for student learning by using teaching practices such as posing purposeful questioning, supporting productive struggle, and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse. In doing so, participants learn to support students collaboratively engaged with rich tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices incorporated through intentional and reflective planning.