Helping Students Understand Fractions Through Research
Why is it that kids lose interest in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related studies before they hit middle school? In a previous post, I talked about how kids are born natural problem-solvers, acting as mini-scientists – tasting, touching, building, and experimenting, as they explore the world around them.
Elementary school students lose interest in STEM related studies for many reasons, including not getting enough instruction and exposure to it, it's not presented in a fun and engaging way, or they simply don't see the value in it. By 2018, 8 million jobs in the U.S. economy will require a college degree in STEM. Science and technology are the foundation for innovation, and without the skilled workers to meet the demand, our country will fall behind.
Our product development team continually researches ways to improve our curriculum, including testing new strategies and approaches to encourage and enhance STEM learning.
One of the projects they are working on is a developing a flash based game designed to help younger students learn fractions. A solid understanding of fractions is paramount to understanding Algebra and Geometry. Without an early base, students will struggle to progress in mathematics.
To help begin testing some new strategies to enhance the learning of fractions, we are collaborating with a team of world class learning scientists, including Zoran Popovic, professor and director of the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington, early math education experts including Taylor Martin, and industry game designers like Electronic Arts and Pop Cap, to create an online game world that will be made available via certain age-appropriate lessons within our online learning system.
The game aims to increase the interest in math in general and provide a solid foundation for future math concepts. And while the student is playing, the game records play traces, audio/video data, and biometrics including pupil dilation and gaze tracking that will be used for research and future games and projects. To keep the player engaged, each week during the testing period, new worlds will be introduced.
The game will soon be available to current third graders within our online school platform and is a great example of how our team continues to look for ways technology and science can help kids learn.
Seattle Mag: Most Influential: Zoran Popovic and David Baker