OXFORD, Miss. – Allan Bellman, a mathematics education professor at the University of Mississippi, is the recipient of the 2013 Texas Instruments T³ Leadership Award for his creative uses of technology in the classroom and his work to develop mathematics instruction technology.
As a member of the Texas Instruments’ T³ Team, Bellman has helped to design graphing calculators and other technology to better suit the needs of students since 1987.
“The graphing calculator business was brand new territory back then,” explained Bellman, who joined the UM School of Education, the state’s largest producer of teachers and educational leaders, as an associate professor of mathematics education last August. “It was just developed in the last 25 or 30 years. T³ was trying to put together people who seemed to have a different vision of how math should be taught.”
Before entering higher education, Bellman taught high school mathematics for 32 years in the Maryland public school system. During this time, he influenced thousands of students, including UM education Dean David Rock, who took high school mathematics from Bellman in the late 1980s.
“He challenged us as students in the classroom every day,” said Rock. “He even continued his commitment outside the classroom whether it was with track or being our class sponsor. He was, and still is, one of the most passionate teachers you will ever meet. Fortunately for us at Ole Miss, he continues that passion.”
When Bellman began working for the T³ development team, he implemented the company’s latest technology into his lesson plans so he could challenge students to use technology on their educational paths and gain a deeper understanding of the material.
“Allan is a very gifted mentor to veteran and pre-service teachers alike,” said Gayle Mujica, director of professional development and content at Texas Instruments. “He gives simple tools and tricks to get the most engagement and thoughtfulness from students and challenges preconceived notions on the use of technology for teaching math. He has also provided us with years of important feedback to improve the effectiveness of TI technology.”
At Ole Miss, Bellman continues to use technology to excite students in the classroom. Math and physics problems involving complex equations and many variables are made fun in his classroom with out-of-the-box instruction.
“We had so many great learning experiences in his classroom, most of which included the use of technology,” said senior secondary mathematics education major Jessica Fancher. “I think the most fun we had was playing with toy cars in the main hallway of Guyton Hall. We used TI-Nspires and motion detectors to find the speed of each car. We problem-solved, communicated and had lots of fun.”
Bellman also incorporates technology with activities such as the popular video game “Angry Birds” and even a Barbie doll bungee course to keep students interested and to show how everyday objects can connect with mathematics and physics.
According to the Journal of Research of Science Teaching, STEM-based classes have a higher engagement percentage when project-based learning activities are used. This research determined that students’ collaboration and problem-solving skills improved to a greater extent than traditional, book-based instruction.
Bellman hopes to inspire Ole Miss pre-service teachers to continue this version of teaching in their classrooms and inspire their students to learn.
“Picture a math teacher in high school or college,” Bellman said.”They stand in front of you, teach out of a book and tell you what to do. There are some really great students who ask lots of questions, but those sitting in the back are lost. Teachers have to change their methods. We’re trying to help people who are going to be teachers realize there are a lot of different things you can do to engage students. We’re hoping that we can make a difference.”