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Interplay between play and tech and teachers who won’t be left behind

From the beautiful coastal district of Carrillo in Costa Rica, Fausis Guadamúz, Director at Santa Rita School, reflects on his own experiences as both learner and teacher.

“We adults are from a bygone era,” he smirks, as he recalls studying math as a young boy. “We learned the hard way.” 

In the 1960s, paper, pencil, and pen where the only technologies available to Fausis and his peers. There were no digital devices with touchscreens to scroll. The only way to create that now familiar slip-slide glide of a feeling on your fingertips was to laminate them lightly with chalk dust or Biro ink. Inadvertently, or by choice? That was your call.   

Back then, as Fausis remembers, math for most kids was a “cram-for-exam” subject, unless you dreamed of becoming a rocket scientist, doctor, or engineer of some sort. Some learners did appear to have been born with a knack for math, though. Savants from the start, like Russell Crowe’s John Nash in the movie, A Beautiful Mind. For the rest, studying math was a necessary albeit temporary (and thankfully so) inconvenience. 

At that time, you could declare victory if you were able to count to a thousand, memorize your times tables right up to twelve twelves, and somewhat coherently explain the difference between pie and pi. This last one being the most important, of course. Especially, to aid you as the oldest child at the dinner table whenever time and circumstance might call upon them to hoodwink younger siblings as to why, after your parents, you alone owned full birthright to the largest remaining slice. But this is a digression. We are talking about Fausis.  

In today’s world, the stakes are vastly different. Math is not anything temporary, Fausis explains. On the contrary, math needs to be taught as a critical lifelong skill that young learners must master by necessity. Even though the emergence of calculators and computers has made math more universally accessible and more readily available as a problem-solving skill set, the conveniences of technology should not become excuses for educators to rest on their laurels. Children still need to memorize and understand math fundamentals in order to master what they learn.    

Yet, Fausis is hardly a technophobe. Not at all. He heartily welcomes the fourth industrial revolution. In fact, Fausis has observed much improved classroom management and deeper learning engagement between teachers and students in rooms where the Age of Learning Foundation’s Math Mastery program is being implemented using My Math Academy©.    

“It’s a more creative approach to learning,” he says. “It’s more impactful. The important thing is that the children help each other. Especially classmates who are a little behind.” 

It excites Fausis that the students who use the digital solution do so with purpose. “They are learning through play.”  

By incorporating technology and through the process of learning through play, young learners in Carrillo are becoming actively engaged. They are motivated to explore, grow, and equip themselves for this digital age. As such, they are developing positive learner identities as they discover their own unique pathways to master what they learn. 

Fausis cannot help but be a little envious of this generation of children.  

“Technology is the number one tool. If you are not technological, you are stuck in time. Today’s kids can figure out a phone and its apps easily. It is a little more difficult for us,” Fausis says with a smile. “But we have to get updated because we can’t get left behind.”  

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