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Best Practices for Using Interactive Simulations in Remote Math Lessons

Participate and share

Participate and share : Poster

Friday, December 4, 1:30–2:30 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)

Amanda McGarry  
Interactive simulations are flexible tools for teaching content while also fostering engagement, reasoning, modeling and sense-making. Learn how to incorporate simulations into a math lesson and facilitate remote inquiry-based activities.

Audience: Coaches, Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Topic: Open educational resources
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: Math
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
  • Explore and apply instructional design principles to create innovative digital learning environments that engage and support learning.
  • Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.
Influencer Disclosure: This session includes a presenter that indicated a “material connection” to a brand that includes a personal, family or employment relationship, or a financial relationship. See individual speaker menu for disclosure information.

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 the content as well as the mathematical practices of problem-solving, reasoning, and authentic modeling. Time will be spent reflecting upon sample simulations, lessons, and videos of teacher practice, and discussing how these strategies can be applied while teaching remotely.


1. Introduction to Interactive Simulations for teaching and learning mathematics (10 minutes) -Preview a math simulation from PhET (grade K-5) ;

2. How do simulations help students learn mathematics and engage in mathematical practices? (10 minutes) -Research base -Preview a math simulation (grade
9-12) ;

3. What does a remote sim-based lesson look like? (30 minutes) -Model sim-based lesson using a simulation (Grade 6-8), 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 simulations and teaching resources for remote teaching

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).

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Amanda McGarry, PhET Interactive Simulations

Amanda McGarry currently leads CU Boulder's PhET math simulation design and teacher partnership initiative. She leads simulation design for new math simulations, works with teachers to design sim-based activities, and provides teacher resources such as sim-specific tips and teacher preparation videos. Amanda brings 6 years of math teaching experience, primarily in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a MA in Math Education and a BA in Mathematics. Amanda has previously presented about PhET simulations at the ISTE annual conference, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics annual conference, and the Colorado Council of Teachers of Mathematics annual conference.

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