Learning algebra is such a pain for middle school students. How can we create a more concrete (as in more tangible or contextualized) learning experience to learn those abstract concepts?
We were a team of 7 people from different backgrounds (e.g., teaching, business, and design). To keep the team rolling, we divided into small groups, and each group took charge of different tasks. One of our biggest challenges was to have everyone agreed on one single concept that we were all keen on. Thankfully, after a 5-hour brainstorming session, this concept was born.
Why concreteness, you might ask. We also asked ourselves the same question. Thus, we reviewed many academic papers to understand learning affordance of tangible media within the context of math education. Aside from desk research, we did on-site research such as interviewing middle school students and observed a math class in an NYC public school.
Our initial discussion about tangible technology directed us to hone in AR due to its affordance of situated learning facilitated by the digital overlay. I then led a design thinking workshop for my team to brainstorm applications around using AR in math classrooms. After rounds of debates, we came up with MathHeroes, inspired by a learning tool called Balance Beans (which uses physics to represent the notion of equilibrium).
Let’s dive in the visual representations of the game!
Balance - an airplane, a seesaw, a scale of justice can represent an equation. Weight - a box, a dumbbell, a human can be a representation of positive numbers. Pull - a negative number can be symbolized by a balloon, a superhero, or a parachute. We ended up using airplane, box, balloon, to represent equation, positive and negative numbers respectively.
Working with people from various backgrounds was the coolest thing in the project. For example, I never thought the interview technique could be so strategic that even handshaking, eye contacts, and facial expressions all incentivize interviewees about something. Thanks to my teammate from Columbia Business school, I learned to reduce biases when interviewing people.
I wish I could put more effort into this project, although this was my first semester studying abroad and that I had 12-credit courses plus 1 part-time job to handle. I appreciate every teammate’s input of this project.