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Modern marvels

In a public school in the central region of São Paulo, children from the 1st to 4th grades are learning mathematics with the help of the computer. The novelty was introduced this year, through a project that gathered researchers from the Center for Exact Sciences and Technology at PUC-SP, and teachers from the state primary School Mariza. The results have already surpassed the expectations.

“The computer has not only improved the learning of mathematical concepts but it has also aroused the pupils' interest for other subjects “, says the project's coordinator, Sandra Maria Pinto Magina. “They realized, for example, that they also need to read and write to use a computer.” And, instead of the countless difficulties expected, the teachers found plenty of motivation, care with the equipment, and extreme proficiency in dealing with information technology.The project started with the training of four teachers from the school, as well as its director and pedagogical coordinator, who are passing on the knowledge acquired to the other 36 teachers, monitored by the researchers from the university.

The involvement is so great that the work is not even interrupted in the holiday periods. The school's information technology laboratory, which is equipped with funds from FAPESP and the PTA, has also been sought out by many teachers outside class times to plan their activities. FAPESP's support also provided for the acquisition of two special programs for teaching mathematics: Tabletop, an English program that is ideal for working with databases, charts preparation, and calculating averages and percentages (which is already in use), and Cabri Geomètré, French software employed to teach the concepts of geometry.

In the opinion of researcher Sandra Magina, the success of the activities proposed is partly due to the fact that they are connected with the students' concrete experiences. In addition, the use of the computer has brought about a more active participation in class, both in the construction of the databases and in the reading and interpretation of graphs (indeed, setting up a database with ingredients of school meals was one of the themes that the 2nd grade students enjoyed most; they classified the foodstuffs into three categories – sweet, salty and fruit – and created a table showing what boys and girls preferred).

The lessons in the information technology laboratory also awakened a sense of cooperation among the students, who work in pairs most of the time. “This was also a great victory, because most teachers had doubts as to whether they would succeed in achieving their objectives in classes with serious problems of discipline”, says Sandra.

The next step for the research project is to interconnect the teachers via the Internet, to facilitate communication in the second stage of training, in which they themselves will help their colleagues to introducethe computer into their classes.Along this, the researchers intend to create a home page dedicated to educators interested in implementing the project in other schools.