Mobile Mathematics

In 2008, Nokia and the South African government collaborated together to create a mobile phone application to promote applied learning through mathematics. This became known as MoMath (Mobile Mathematics) and it fuses with South Africa’s most popular social media platform MXit.

In Africa, because of the technological capabilities of the mobile phone, more people are using their phones to connect and communicate than PCs or laptops. A decade ago, mobile phones were considered a luxury, and now they are a necessity to modern life. MoMath takes advantage of the cheap access to this device, and thus the phone can be used as an educational tool in an environment where education can be sparse and dysfunctional in a developing society.

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The application works through MXit, which is a social media platform on the phone, and they claim to have 50 million users in Africa who use their messaging service. The popularity of this free service enables MoMath to be used in schools. Students are sent study packets, exams, self-assessment activities, and teacher feedback. Furthermore, students can communicate with teachers and other students, thus creating an educational connection among students who can channel their mathematical questions and concerns. Roughly 70% of the work done on MoMath is done outside of the classroom, thus cutting down on the possible distractions when devices are used within the school walls.

MoMath and MXit are excellent examples of social networking fusing together with education, but many parents disagree and think of them as a distraction.  The ability to communicate with other students on MoMath can be abused when used in the classroom and at home. Several schools, teachers, and parents in Africa have blamed MXit for lower exam scores and time spent less of academics.

This technological deterministic viewpoint doesn’t consider the fact that procrastination stems from the laziness of the student, and not MXit. Social media has been blamed for cutting off one-on-one interactions, but MoMath encourages peer-to-peer learning with a direct connection to the teacher who can provide feedback and offer improvement. Those who do not abuse MXit and MoMath, and consistently takes advantage of the study packages it offers gain new skills and improve upon their academic learning.

The in-class final exams greatly improve when students do the study exercises and participate. Studies have shown that the students are retaining their new knowledge and skills rather than simply memorizing for their benefit on the exams. As a result, the number of students participating in the early test stages of the program jumped from 280 to 4,000 within one year.

The South African government has held MoMath within a few certain regions around the north and western cape, but they have plans on extending the service throughout the rest of the country. Furthermore, Finland has caught on with the success of MoMath, and there are plans to bring the service into some of their secondary schools. This Finnish use of MoMath generates the ability to create an international communication and connection between people using MoMath. The exchange of information and ideas between Finland and South Africa can not only improve the student and teacher, but also the ergonomics of MoMath.

 

With the introduction of MoMath in Finland, do you think we will see more services like MoMath being used in first-world countries?

Do you think this service creates a proper environment for leaning within the classroom, or do you think the distractions will nullify the intentions of MoMath?

 

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3 Responses to Mobile Mathematics

  1. andjson says:

    It’s interesting, but not at all surprising, that Finland is making a move with MoMath- Scandinavia has long been a forerunner in mobile technology and usage (Nokia is a Finnish company, after all). But like everything, Scandinavia is far more progressive than other Western nations. To answer both of your questions, it really depends on the culture of the community using the technology. Learning based education is more valued in many African and European countries, where as it can be argued that in the United States, it is a testing-based education system. These new approaches to melding tech and education make complete sense in a practical sense, because mobile technology is a bullet train that you’re either on board with, or you’re standing at the station waiting for your cartoonish 2-person pump cart to come. However, it comes down to (a) what the people in charge feel is important, and (b) what the community wants for themselves. I see this kind of mobile learning taking off in Europe, but failing miserably in the United States. Our education system, at the moment, is just unprepared for that type of experiment in education, especially as long as we are a standardized testing oriented system (this has especially come to light recently, when the president of the Princeton Review himself said that the SATs are a scam and don’t really prove anything).

    Like everything else in the United States, we’ll be behind by a number of years, and when we are just starting to realize the importance and greatness of a new use of technology, there’ll be another one that we’ll be afraid to use, and scoff at for being a phase, while touting the time-honored ways of educating.

  2. As you stated, I disagree with the technologically deterministic viewpoint that the parents are fretting about. Much like the video we watched in class, I feel that it is very easy to try and point a finger at technology as the root of youth-oriented problems. However, I believe the technology itself isn’t making people lazy or worse students, I think the problems lie within the users themselves.
    I think it would be awesome if more first world countries began to implement technology like MoMath. The application could possibly keep kids focused on the schoolwork while they are in class, seeing as a lot of kids have their eyes glued to their phones anyway. But more importantly, I think students will be able to complete their homework assignments more easily if the assignment is loaded into the app. That way they can work while they’re on the bus, waiting in line somewhere, or just about anywhere on the go.
    Banking is now portable with mobile devices, ordering food is now mobile, purchasing products is now mobile; doesn’t it make sense for education to become mobile? Tasks and duties are MUCH more easily accomplished nowadays thanks to mobile apps. I remember when I was in grade school I would forget my worksheets in my classroom all the time and wouldn’t be able to finish my homework. Phones are rarely ever forgotten so if the homework is built into it, students will always have their assignments no matter where they are!

  3. pwalsh778 says:

    I think that anything that helps students learn is a good thing. I think that using MoMath to help supplement (not replace) in class learning is a good thing. Different student learn better in different ways. One student may need to see it drawn out in front of them and follow along on their papers, some need to fiddle with something in their hands while learning, and others do their best learning on their own time with a phone. It’s like the Different Strokes theme song, “The don’t move to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for one might not be right for some.”. This is very true for learning and kids should do what they do best to learn.

    As far as MoMath being used in more first world countries, I think it’s already happening just not necessarily with cell phones. Several schools are now assigning students lap tops and iPads for them to use while studying and doing homework. And as far as students connecting with each other and with teachers, take a look at our class; we all have Twitter and can tweet each other or Dr. Vickery with class questions or problems. In fact, we’re encouraged to do so.

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