Blog Series

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

by Dr. John Woodward on May 11, 2023

  • ChatGPT
  • Math
John Woodward, Ph.D.

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


About the Author

Dr. John Woodward is a former distinguished professor and dean of the School of Education at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. As a researcher, he has focused on mathematics education, technology-based instruction, and math curriculum for academically low-achieving students, particularly in middle schools. Dr. Woodward has co-authored four technology-based instructional programs, and he is the senior author of TransMath®, a math intervention program for middle school students. He is also the co-developer of NUMBERS, a math professional development program for K–8 teachers.

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