Math and Artificial Intelligence

  • Math and Artificial Intelligence

    November 2023

    “What math should be taught now that ChatGPT will solve equations?” This was the question recently posed to me by the news media. Multiple times a week, there are blog posts and articles about how artificial intelligence (AI) is, should be, or shouldn’t be changing the world of education. As a mathematics education community, we must consider how to best integrate AI into mathematics teaching and learning.

    I sometimes hear educators say that AI should be banned from classrooms. This seems naïve. We need to recognize that students aren’t in school all day and will use it outside of the classroom whether we allow them to or not. Instead, our goal should be to help students discover how to appropriately use these tools and recognize the potential pitfalls. If we are genuinely interested in helping our students become career and college-ready, we must recognize that many occupations employ AI, and we should be helping prepare our students to use it. 

    Artificial intelligence also has implications for what we teach. If the questions we are asking are easily solvable with tools like ChatGPT or PhotoMath, then we must reconsider the types of questions we’re asking. Mathematics must be more than merely following a rote procedure to generate a correct answer. So that students can see the relevance of learning mathematics, we must pose questions that involve more than following a rote technology procedure. Instead, students should be provided opportunities to make sense of the concepts they are learning and model situations with mathematics. Learning mathematics must also involve helping students develop the necessary justification skills to support their reasoning.

    Can artificial intelligence be used to help educators better and more efficiently do what only educators can do? The answer is yes! Mathematics educators can use AI tools to more efficiently create real-life applications of concepts students are learning, which can allow us to use our focus and time on building relationships with students and helping students develop a positive mathematical identity. Artificial intelligence can’t replace educators, but it can be used to free up some of our time.

    Artificial intelligence can also help us grow as mathematics educators. I met with someone recently who shared that there is an app that can take an audio recording of our teaching and then, by utilizing AI, provide teachers with immediate feedback on things such as the number of questions asked or the amount of time spent in small groups. In the past, when I’ve videotaped my class, students often acted differently because they knew they might be on camera. I found myself needing to go back to view myself to collect my own data. Having the potential to turn an app on, perhaps even without the students knowing it, and then having it collect data is powerful. I can get immediate feedback to help me determine if my instruction matches what I believe it to be without the pressure of feeling evaluated or judged by someone.

    We have a lot to learn about how to best utilize artificial intelligence in the mathematics classroom, as well as how to identify the pitfalls. If we are truly interested in meeting the needs of all students, we should not be burying our heads in the sand to avoid it or banning the use of AI, instead, I challenge you to learn how to integrate it into your instruction and into our profession. AI is not going away. I look forward to learning more from those of you who have been keeping up with this dynamic topic.

    Kevin Dykema
    NCTM President