Digital Technology and Maths-education: The Dilemma of Calculation and Conceptualisation

Karin Tweddell Levinsen, Birgitte Holm Sørensen

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingArticle in proceedingResearchpeer-review


Digital technologies challenge maths education as they provide the calculations that used to be the core of maths teaching. Although calculation is still important to learn, the core of maths-education is increasingly the understanding and application of concepts and language to authentic situations in order for machines to perform adequate calculations. While many e-learning applications support learning skills and calculations, maths teachers have difficulties finding digital resources aimed at maths as concepts and language. Accordingly, teachers experience a dilemma when their school managers expect them to digitalise their teaching. This paper is based on results from an action research project running from 2012 to 2016 following a cohort from first to third grade in a Copenhagen suburban school. The school aimed to implement iPads in everyday practice and provide teachers with competence building. Accordingly, all teachers and students were given an iPad. While the project had a broader scope, the present paper focuses on the teachers’ and students’ motivation and learning in relation to the iPad and maths in light of the above-described dilemma. As action researchers, the researchers acted as sparring partners for the teachers. The school provided resources for teacher team meetings on a weekly basis. At the meetings, the teachers became familiar with using iPads in learning settings, brainstormed ideas and co-designed experiments for upcoming sessions. The meetings provided a framework for iteratively sharing knowledge and improving practice. The data were collected using anthropological methods: observations, interviews, summaries, thick description, video recordings and collection of materials produced during the project. The data were analysed using condensation and annotation methods. The present paper identifies teacher practices and use of digital technology that amplifies the teachers’ dilemma of using technology in maths teaching. Equally, the paper provides examples of practices developed during the project that seem to overcome the dilemma.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 17th European conference of ELearning
EditorsKlimis Ntalianis, Antonios Andreatos, Cleo Sgouropoulou
PublisherAcademic Conferences and Publishing International
Publication dateNov 2018
ISBN (Print)9781912764075
ISBN (Electronic)9781912764082
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
Event17th. European Conference on ELearning - University of West Attica, Athens, Greece, Athens, Greece
Duration: 1 Nov 20182 Nov 2018


Conference17th. European Conference on ELearning
LocationUniversity of West Attica, Athens, Greece
Series Proceedings of the European Conference on e-Learning


  • digital technology
  • instrumental mathematics
  • relational mathematics
  • e learning
  • iPad
  • ICT


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