Forest Trail Features New Math Labs

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– Math classrooms at Forest Trail Middle School in Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163 have a new look with the addition of state of the art technology features that broaden instructional possibilities.

Opened for the school’s sixth, seventh and eighth grade students’ use at the beginning of the 2007-08 school year, the three math classrooms were designed as “math labs” and are the major portion of a new addition at Forest Trail that also includes a new main entrance with enhanced security.

Each lab contains 30 desks that each house a computer monitor and keyboard that can disappear into the housing below the desk’s surface level so that students have an unobstructed writing area. These individual computers are linked to the teacher’s computer, which is linked to a SmartBoard, a white dry erase board at the front of the class that is approximately three feet high by four feet wide that functions as an interactive computer screen.  A ceiling-mounted projector displays images on the SmartBoard. The teacher is able to send math problems to the SmartBoard and manipulate images on it from her computer as well as with a touch of her finger on the SmartBoard surface. She also can transmit information to the students’ computers and can view on her computer what each student is viewing.  At the same time, the SmartBoard also functions as a Word document with a touch screen surface and tool bar that allows the teacher to draw and write on the SmartBoard’s surface or access previously researched and approved Internet sites that provide math lessons that align with the curriculum and state standards for practice and reinforcement of concepts. Algebraic formulas, geometric figures, or math calculations that the teacher writes or draws on the SmartBoard can be converted to and saved as a Word document so that an absent student has access to a missed lesson. Students also have the opportunity to work at the SmartBoard during class lessons.

“It is a different way of presenting and teaching mathematics that allows us to incorporate computers and the Internet into the curriculum,” said math teacher Martha Brennan. “This does not take the place of paper and pencil in math, but it does make mastery of higher level math skills available to students who don’t easily master math. I think the technology has made geometry easier to teach. I see a lot of light bulbs going on in the course of a lesson.”

In a recent eighth grade geometry lesson Mrs. Brennan displayed a variety of triangles on the SmartBoard. As she discussed the angles contained in each triangle, she touched the side of a triangle and “dragged” it to a new position to form a new angle. In a lesson on area and perimeter, a touch of the screen allowed Mrs. Brennan to deconstruct a computer-generated drawing of a vegetable garden so that students could see the various rectangular shapes that comprised the garden plot.

“We are extremely proud of our technology program,” said Superintendent Joyce Carmine. “The math labs at Forest Trail are cutting edge and we are pleased that we are able to provide this for our students. In addition to the three SmartBoards at Forest Trail, which has two other SmartBoards in place, there are more than 40 other SmartBoards throughout the District. During the last few years we have also replaced five of the computer labs in the District so that all of our labs are updated and all of our computers have flat screen panels. Our program has kept pace with the rapid changes in technology. As a result, our students have access to the latest instructional materials within the classroom and they have the ability to take their learning beyond the classroom walls.”