When ChatGPT hit the scene, we saw a surge of worry wash over our English and social studies teachers. How would this change the way they taught writing? For months, I pushed ChatGPT to the side and thought of it merely as a means to an end for supporting students with writing. Or as the English equivalent of Mathway—the program with which math educators have come to have a love-hate relationship because of its abilities to solve problems for students. But as with most new technologies, these two have their place in the classroom when used well.
Since its introduction, we’ve seen more educational uses for ChatGPT, particularly in terms of supporting the teacher and their seemingly endless duties, which had me wondering... could ChatGPT be used in math class?
Artificial intelligence (AI) provides math teachers with the means to answer every teacher’s favorite question: “When am I ever going to need this?” Through use of specific prompting and sequencing of questions, math teachers can identify real-world connections to math topics they’re teaching, connect those to student interests, and create a variety of instructional materials to use in the classroom.
AI as a Search Engine
Throughout the school year, you get to know your students—their interests and aspirations. Whether using formal surveys or general classroom observation, you’ve built up a repertoire of knowledge about what topics they find relevant and what sparks interest in your students the most. It’s through this information that teachers can filter their results in ChatGPT.
Topic leading to interest: You can start with a broad question: “What are real-life applications of polynomials?” Then, filter which applications are most relevant to teenagers. From those suggestions, select ones that best align with your students’ interests, such as computer graphics and video game design.
Interest leading to topic: You can start with a particular student interest, like buying a car for the first time, and ask AI to help you identify relevant content connections. You may be surprised to find out all the different content connections you can make. Don’t let overwhelm stop you. Instead, you can use AI to help you create the instructional materials for you.
AI as a Math Content Creator
Now that you’ve homed in on the idea that you want to explore, it’s time to create the lesson. Since you may not know the explicit connections between the math content and the topic very well yourself, you can use AI to help you create the content to turn this into an engaging experience for your students.
Question creator: At their most basic level, ChatGPT and other AI sources can help you write a series of word problems connecting your topic and content. These can be embedded into homework assignments, partner tasks, or warm-ups.
Tip for prompting AI: Include the general content topic or topics your students are interested in as well as the content topic or standard you’re addressing.
Performance tasks: You can also use ChatGPT to explore creating a variety of performance tasks, where students are engaging in higher-order critical thinking skills to apply mathematics. You can create these with and without scaffolding, as I have done.
Projects: I’ve found that projects and project-based learning activities can be created in less than half the time it usually takes when I use AI. Easily outline a project, select criteria to be assessed, and have AI help write a rubric for your project. Then, just gather the materials and bring the project to life in your classroom! I created a project focused on geometry, art, and culture.
Inquiry-based activities: Growing students’ critical thinking skills and their ability to use mathematics to problem-solve and analyze data is essential. AI can help you create inquiry-based activities to develop students’ quantitative literacy skills. I used ChatGPT to create an activity based on the U.S. Census.
AI as a Math Lesson Designer
As with other content areas, I find that AI is a useful tool for mathematics teachers in creating lesson plans. Math teachers can use artificial intelligence to design essential questions; create a standards-aligned lesson plan complete with practice problems, remediation, and extension opportunities; and wrap up their lessons with exit tickets.
Tips for prompting AI: Begin with using AI to co-draft an essential question for a lesson. After you’ve established that, prompt AI to help provide example problems to jump-start your thinking. When you find an example you like, you can ask it how to create similar problems that would work to support remediation and extension opportunities for the lesson.
When designing standards-aligned lessons, it’s important to consider the explicit component of rigor expressed in a standard when designing a lesson, as each type lends itself to different instructional models. AI supports teachers in designing lesson plans to address each aspect of rigor contained within a standard, thus providing a holistic approach to lesson design.
Tips for prompting AI: You can prompt AI to support you in developing a lesson plan structure for each emphasis of rigor addressed in your standard. Once you’ve identified that, AI can help you create a time-specific lesson plan to enact in your class with a particular emphasis on conceptual development, procedural skills, or applications of standards.
AI as an aid to Human Intelligence
While there’s no doubt that AI has impressive potential to support math teachers in a variety of tasks, it’s important to remember that it’s the human touch that matters. Using AI as a springboard, teachers can then use their knowledge of their students' interests and skills to best design the lesson and activity to meet their students’ needs. It’s the teacher’s ability to connect the students and the standards that makes the learning experience impactful, not the impressively quick way in which the lesson or activity was designed.