Karishma

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A few weeks ago a television station in Toronto asked me if I’d share some tips on how parents could help their kids stay engaged with remote learning. My initial reaction was to run for the hills – appearing on live TV is not my cup of tea. However my colleagues persuaded me to accept. You can see a clip of that segment here - I’ve included it in this post because otherwise someone on the marketing team would have ;-)

My tips are based on a wide variety of experiences. My role at Maplesoft requires me to speak with educators at all levels, and remote learning has been a hot topic of conversation lately, as you can imagine. As well, in my past life (i.e. life before kids) I was a high school math tutor, and now as a parent I’m in the thick of it helping my son navigate Kindergarten remotely.

So here are my 5 tips on how parents of elementary and high-school aged children can help their kids stay engaged with remote learning. If you have other tips, including suggestions for university students, feel free to leave them in the comments sections. And if these tips help you, please let me know. It will have made the stress of my appearance on TV worthwhile!

 

Tip 1: Look for the positives

These are unprecedented times for kids, parents and teachers. Over the course of the last 6-7 months, learning as we’ve grown to know it has changed radically. And while the change has been incredibility difficult for everyone, it’s helpful to look for the positives that remote learning can bring to our children:

  • Remote learning can help some kids focus on their work by minimizing the social pressures or distractions they may face at school.
  • Older kids are appreciating the flexibility that remote learning can offer with respect to when and how they complete their work.  
  • Younger kids are loving the experience of learning in the presence of mom and dad. My 4 year old thinks it’s awesome that I now know all the lyrics to the songs that he learns in school.
  • As many remote learning classrooms include students from across the school board, this can provide kids with the opportunity to connect with their peers from different socio-economic backgrounds living across the city.

 

Tip 2: Don’t shy away from your kid’s teacher

While some kids are thriving learning from home, we know that others are struggling.

If your high school student is struggling at school, do whatever it takes to convince them to connect with their teacher. If your child is younger, make the connection yourself.

In my role, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many teachers, and rest assured, many of them would welcome this engagement.  They want our kids to succeed, but without the face-to-face classroom interaction it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for them to rely on visual cues to see how your child is doing and if they are struggling with a concept.

So I encourage you to reach out to your kid’s teacher especially if you notice your child is having difficulty.

 

Tip 3: Get creative with learning

Another benefit of remote learning is that it presents us with a unique opportunity to get creative with learning.

Kids, especially those in middle school and high school, now have the time and opportunity to engage with a variety of different online learning resources. And when I say online learning resources, I mean more than just videos. Think interactive tools (such as Maple Learn), that help students visualize concepts from math and science, games that allow students to practice language skills, repositories of homework problems and practice questions that allow kids to practice concepts, the list goes on.

Best of all, many content providers and organizations, are offerings these resources and tools available for free or at a substantially reduced cost to help kids and parents during this time.

So if your child is having difficulty with a particular subject or if they are in need of a challenge, make sure to explore what is available online.

 

Tip 4: Embrace the tech

To be successful, remote learning requires children to learn a host of new digital skills, such as how to mute/unmute themselves, raise their hands electronically, turn on and off their webcam, toggle between applications to access class content and upload homework, keep track of their schedule via an electronic calendar, etc. This can be daunting for kids who are learning remotely for the first time.

As a parent you can help your child become more comfortable with remote learning by setting aside some time either before or after class to help them master these new tools. And since this is likely new to you, there are some great videos online that will show you how to use the system your school has mandated be it Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom or something else.  

 

Tip 5: It’s a skill

Remember that remote learning is a skill like any other skill, and it takes time and practice to become proficient.

So remember to be patient with yourself, your kids, and their teachers, as we embark on this new journey of learning. Everyone is trying their best and I truly believe a new rhythm will emerge as we progress through the school year.

We will find our way.

I am very pleased to announce that we have just begun a free public beta for a new online product, Maple Learn!  Maple Learn is a dynamic online environment designed specifically for teaching and learning math and solving math problems, from mid-high school to second year university.

Maple Learn is much more than just a sophisticated online graphing calculator. We tried to create an environment that focuses on the things instructors and students in those courses have told us that they want/need in a math tool. Here are some of my personal favorites:

  • You can get the answer directly if you want it, but you can also work out problems line-by-line as you would on paper, or use a combination of manual steps and computations performed by Maple Learn.  
  • The plot of your expression shows up as soon as you start typing, so plotting is super easy
  • You can parameterize expressions with a single mouse click, and then watch the plots and results change as you modify the values using sliders
  • It’s really easy to share your work, so when a student asks for help, the helper can always see exactly what they’ve done so far (and it will be legible, unlike a lot of the tutoring I’ve done!)

Free public beta: Maple Learn is freely available to instructors and students as part of an on-going public beta program. Please try it out, and feel free to use with your classes this fall.

Visit Maple Learn for more information, and to try it out. We hope you find it useful, and we’d love to know what you think.

I’m extremely pleased to introduce the newest update to the Maple Companion. In this time of wide-spread remote learning, tools like the Maple Companion are more important than ever, and I’m happy that our efforts are helping students (and some of their parents!) with at least one small aspect of their life.  Since we’ve added a lot of useful features since I last posted about this free mobile app, I wanted to share the ones I’m most excited about. 

(If you haven’t heard about the Maple Companion app, you can read more about it here.) 

If you use the app primarily to move math into Maple, you’ll be happy to hear that the automatic camera focus has gotten much better over the last couple of updates, and with this latest update, you can now turn on the flash if you need it. For me, these changes have virtually eliminated the need to fiddle with the camera to bring the math in focus, which sometimes happened in earlier versions.

If you use the app to get answers on your phone, that’s gotten much better, too. You can now see plots instantly as you enter your expression in the editor, and watch how the plot changes as you change the expression. You can also get results to many numerical problems results immediately, without having to switch to the results screen. This “calculator mode” is available even if you aren’t connected to the internet.  Okay, so there aren’t a lot of students doing their homework on the bus right now, but someday!

Speaking of plots, you can also now view plots full-screen, so you can see more of plot at once without zooming and panning, squinting, or buying a bigger phone.

Finally, if English is not you or your students’ first language, note that the app was recently made available in Spanish, French, German, Russian, Danish, Japanese, and Simplified Chinese. 

As always, we’d love you hear your feedback and suggestions. Please leave a comment, or use the feedback forms in the app or our web site.

Visit Maple Companion to learn more, find links to the app stores so you can download the app, and access the feedback form. If you already have it installed, you can get the new release simply by updating the app on your phone.

Today we celebrated International Women's Day at Maplesoft. As part of our celebration, we had a panel of 5 successful women from within the community share their experiences and insights with us. 

Hearing these women speak has given me the courage to share my personal experience and advice to women in technology. If what I write here helps even one woman, then I will have accomplished something great today. 

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What do you do at Maplesoft?

My name is Karishma. I'm the Director, Product Management - Academic. 

 

Where did you grow up and where did you go to school (Diploma/degree)?

I was born and raised in Montreal to parents of Indian descent. Like most Indian parents, they “encouraged" me to pursue a career in either Law, Medicine, or Engineering, despite my true calling to pursue a career in theatre (at least that's what I believed it to be at the time)

Given that I had no siblings to break the ice, and that rebelling wasn't my Modus Operandi (that came much later), I did what any obedient teenager would do: I pursued a career in Electrical Engineering at McGill University. In my mind, this was the fastest way to landing a job and fleeing the proverbial nest. 

Electrical Engineering was far from glamorous, and after two years, I was ready to switch. It was due to the sheer insistence of my mother that I completed the degree. 

So how did I end up pursuing a graduate degree in Biomedical Engineering at McGill University? It wasn't the future I envisioned, but the economic downturn in 2001-2002 saw a massive decrease in hiring, and the job that I had held-out patiently for during those four years became a far-off dream. So I did the thing I never imagined I would: I accepted the offer to pursue a Master's and the very generous stipend that came with it. In case you are wondering, I only applied because my father nagged me into submission. (Insistence and nagging are two innate traits of Indian parents)

Contrary to what I expected, I loved my Master's degree! It gave me the freedom to immerse myself wholly in a topic I found exciting and allowed me to call the shots on my schedule, which led to my involvement in student government as VP Internal. But apart from the research and the independence, pursuing a master's degree opened doors to opportunities that I couldn't have imagined, such as an internship with the International Organization for Migration in Kenya, a job offer in Europe, and the chance to work at Maplesoft. (I guess my parents did know what was best for me.) 

 

What is the best part of your job?

It's figuring out how to solve problems our users have as well as the ones they might not realize they have. 

At Maplesoft, I work with some most brilliant minds I've ever encountered to build a product that makes math more accessible to our users, whether they be a student, researcher, scientist, or engineer. 

Some of the aspects of my role that I love the most include: 

  • speaking to and learning from our customers, 
  • interpreting the meaning behind their words, facial expressions, vocal intonations, and body language, and
  • collaborating with the sales, marketing, and development teams to turn what was 'said' into tangible actions that will enhance the product and user experience. 

Most nights, when I leave work, I do so with a sense of excitement because I know my actions and the actions of those I work with will help our users achieve their goals and ambitions. There's no better high. 

 

What advice do you have for young women interested in a career in your field? 
Throughout my career, I've had the privilege to work with some amazing women and men who've given me advice that I wish I had known when I was an undergraduate student. If you are a woman pursuing a STEM degree or starting your first job in a tech firm, here are three tips that may help you: 

1.   Don't be scared of the 'N' word. 
Don't be scared of NETWORKING. I know it can be intimidating, but it truly is the best way to land a job, advance your career, or meet the person you admire most. Remember that networking can take place anywhere - it's not exclusive to networking events. Some advice that I received that helped me overcome my fear of networking: 

  • Smile - Before you approach a person or enter a networking session, force yourself to smile. It will help you diffuse any tension you are holding and will make you appear more approachable. 
  • Research - Take the time to research the person(s) you would like to meet. Find out as much as you can about them and their company. Prepare some icebreaker questions and other questions to help carry the conversation forward ahead of time. Remember that people like to talk about themselves and their experiences. 
  • Don't take it personally - The person you approach may find networking equally tricky. So if they seem disinterested or aloof, don't take it personally. 
  • Just do it - Networking gets easier with practice. Don't let a failed attempt set you back. The worse thing that will happen is that you don't make a connection. 

 

 2.   It's ok to ask for help.
If you are a woman in an environment that is dominated by men, you might hesitate to ask for help. DON'T! There's nothing wrong with asking for help. That said, many women ask for help in a way that undermines their confidence and thus erodes others’ perception of them. Next time you need help, have a question or require clarification, take a moment to phrase your request, so you don't inadvertently put yourself down. 

 

3.   Play to your strengths
Don't think you need to know everything. Nobody expects it. If you landed a new job or co-op placement, and you are finding yourself doing things you've never done and don't come naturally to you yet, don't let your brain convince you that you don't deserve it. Remember that you earned it because of your qualities and strengths. 

I am very pleased to announce that we have released a new version of the free Maple Companion app. For those you may have missed it, the first release of this app gave you a way to take a picture of math using your phone’s camera and upload it into Maple. Instructors have told me they’ve found this very useful in their classes, as they no longer have to deal with transcription errors as students enter problems into Maple.

So that’s good. But version 2 is a lot better. The Maple Companion now solves math problems directly on your phone. It can handle problems from algebra, precalculus, calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, and more. No need to upload to Maple – students can solve the problem by hand, and then use the app to check their answer, try new operations on the same expression, and even create plots. And if they want to do even more, they can still upload the expression into Maple for more advanced operations and explorations.

There’s also a built-in math editor, so you can enter problems without the camera, too. And if you use the camera, and it misinterprets part of your expression, you can fix it using the editor instead of having to retake the picture.  Good as the math recognition is, even in the face of some pretty poor handwriting, the ability to tweak the results has proven to be extremely useful.

There’s lots more we’d like to do with the Maple Companion app over time, and we’d like hear your thoughts, as well. How else can it help students learn?  How else can it act as a complement to Maple? Let us know!

Visit Maple Companion to learn more, find links to the app stores so you can download the app, and access the feedback form. And if you already have version 1, you can get the new release simply by updating the app on your phone.

 

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