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What Does ChatGPT Have to Do with It? Technology and Today’s Math Classroom

Updated on
Modified on June 2, 2023
  • ChatGPT
  • Math

If you haven’t heard about ChatGPT since its public introduction late last fall, you’re rare. If you have heard about it, you’re likely to be intrigued, confused, and possibly alarmed by what it can do. High school English teachers and college professors are now deluged with essays written with ease and for free by ChatGPT. Ask the AI program to write an essay about The Great Gatsby, and you have a more-than-respectable paper in less than 30 seconds. As my colleague who has done writing research in public schools for 30 years put it to me recently, “The vast majority of students I’ve worked with can’t produce these kinds of essays.” 

While all of this may be the “calculator moment” for the written essay, it’s less clear how much K–12 mathematics education may be upended by ChatGPT, at least in the short term. OpenAI, developer of ChatGPT, stated the program could be used as a math tutor in less than a decade. I’ve used the most recent version, and it has a way to go. Nonetheless, the program does provoke us to think about how it and other current technologies can be harnessed to enhance day-to-day math instruction.

Recently, I was the guest on EDVIEW360’s podcast, which will be available for listening next week. During that conversation, we explored three discrete areas that matter to math teachers today. We explored how intelligent technology systems like ChatGPT could be used to:

  1. Synthesize ongoing assessment in a way that allows teachers to group and regroup students for homogeneous instruction. If reading instruction has taught us anything, it is that homogeneous grouping is a key to helping struggling students make progress in a subject.
  2. Create individualized tutoring materials or amass high-quality information from the web. This is particularly true of visual presentations of mathematical concepts, which can be powerful scaffolds for learning.
  3. Help teachers enact the kind of “real-world problem solving” called for in today’s standards.  Going beyond the textbook and connecting math to the world around us is more important today than ever before.

I hope you’ll listen to the podcast, here. We would love to hear your reactions and experiences with ChatGPT.


Listen to the Podcast

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About the Author
Dr. John Woodward
Dr. John Woodward
Author of TransMath®

Dr. John Woodward is a nationally recognized mathematics author, writer, and speaker. He is the past dean of the school of education and professor emeritus at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA.

As a researcher, he focused on mathematics interventions for academically low-achieving students, particularly in elementary and middle grades. Dr. Woodward has published more than 80 articles and presented on mathematics education issues throughout the U.S., as well as in Canada, Asia, and Europe. He is the senior author of TransMath, a math intervention program for middle school students. He also is the co-developer of NUMBERS, a math professional development program for K–8 teachers.

Learn more about Dr. John Woodward