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Actively Engage Students in Math Content and Practices With Interactive Simulations (B200)

[Explore and create : BYOD]

Monday, June 27, 8:30–9:30 am
CCC Mile High Ballroom 2A

favoritesAmanda McGarry  favoritesSusan Miller  
Interactive simulations are flexible tools for teaching content while also fostering engagement, reasoning, modeling and sense-making. Learn how to incorporate simulations into your classroom, facilitate inquiry-based activities and engage students in mathematical practices. Take home new ideas and lessons you can implement immediately.

Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, PC, Mac
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: It is useful for attendees to have java installed on their laptop computers so that they can experience all simulations, but many of the ones we will use run in a browser and will run on any device.
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Games and simulations
Grade level: 6-12
Subject area: Math
ISTE Standards: Teachers : Design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments
Teachers : Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity
Students : Creativity and innovation

Digital tote resources

Description: Presentation
Description: Presentation URL

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Participants will learn research-based instructional strategies for using interactive computer simulations in the classroom.

Participants will learn how to design and facilitate effective sim-based lessons that engage students in math content as well as the mathematical practices of problem-solving, reasoning, and authentic modeling.

Participants will reflect upon sample simulations, lessons, and videos of teacher practice, and discuss how these strategies can be applied in their own classrooms.


1. Introduction to Interactive Simulations for teaching and learning mathematics (10 minutes)
-Preview a math simulation from PhET (grade 9-12) ;

2. How do simulations help students learn mathematics and engage in mathematical practices? (10 minutes)
-Research base
-Preview a math simulation (grade 6-8) ;

3. What does a sim-based lesson look like? (30 minutes)
-Model sim-based lesson using a simulation, activity sheet, and lesson plan (participants will explore simulations on their devices and model student engagement)
-Reflect on features of lesson and how it could be employed in various classrooms
-Reflect on classroom video ;

4. Where can I find simulations, lessons, and teacher resources? (10 minutes)
-Explore the PhET website to find relevant resources (participants will explore website on their devices)

Supporting research

A meta-analysis of research on simulations in STEM education provides evidence for the benefits of simulations in STEM learning:
D’Angelo, C., Rutstein, D., Harris, C., Bernard, R., Borokhovski, E. & Haertel, G. Simulations for STEM Learning: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. (SRI International, 2014).

Simulations and activity design presented here are aligned with the research base provided by these National Research Council documents:
How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. (National Academy Press, 2000).
How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom. (National Academies Press, 2005).

These articles discuss the use of simulations to address the CCSS in Mathematics, and the second includes research results of improved student learning.
Hensberry, K. K. R., Paul, A. J., Moore, E. B., Podolefsky, N. S. & Perkins, K. K. PhET Interactive Simulations: New Tools to Achieve Common Core Mathematics Standards. in Common Core Mathematics Standards and Implementing Digital Technologies: (ed. Polly, D.) (IGI Global, 2013).

Hensberry, K., Moore, E. & Perkins, K. (2015). Effective Student Learning of Fractions with an Interactive Simulation. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 34(3), 273-298. Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).



favorites Amanda McGarry, University of Colorado Boulder

favorites Susan Miller, University of Colorado

Susan Miller left a career in engineering to teach math to middle school students for eight years before deciding to pursue a doctoral degree in the School of Education, at the University of Colorado Boulder. Specializing in math curriculum and instruction, her research interests include math teacher education and the use of simulations and computational thinking to support mathematizing. She also co-parents four children from 16 to 23 years old.