Act-a-story: a math game

Solving story/word problems require higher order thinking as it requires language, interpretation and math all at once, and hence most children find them challenging. In this project, I propose a game-based learning tool for children aged 7 to 9 years (class 3-4), that tries to equip them with the skills needed to solve story problems.

Act a Story is a tablet based digital game that enables out-of-screen play with higher levels of engagement and creative thinking. The tablet provides the real time direction while students try their hands on provided toolkit.

Objectives

The key objectives of the project were –

  1. Understand the existing pedagogy.

  2. Conduct user study to identify the problems children face while tackling word problems.

  3. Design a game-based solution that can help students in solving word problems in a simpler way.

Project Domain

Pre Study Phase

Case Study I: Kindergarten Style of Teaching

Analysing the teaching methods of Ankura Foundation - a Bangalore based kindergarten school. This school employs innovative ways of teaching students in their curriculum and in their words Happy learning.

Case Study II: Understanding the NCERT Curriculum

The standard NCERT textbooks gave an insight into the existing pedagogy in the context of word problems. Mathematics textbooks of classes 1 to 5 were studied to understand the gradual change in the level of difficulties of problems and concepts.

A typical word problem from NCERT textbook

Problem

In depth study revealed that students face difficulties at these steps: decoding the words in a word problem, understanding the meaning of the words and sentences, reading all of the information, distracting information, imagining the context, writing a number sentence, carrying out the calculation, and interpreting the answer in the context of the question.

Since, major difficulties were mostly due to inability in representation, understanding and defining the related mathematical vocabularies. I will mainly focus to help students with reading and understanding, extracting data, context imagination and calculation to a smaller extent.

Solving a word problem in steps

User Study

Two activities were carried out with 10 students of class 3. Activities were designed to be short and engaging keeping in mind the target user group. Direct problem solving was avoided to keep the children interested.

 

Activity 1: To understand the perception of ‘Easy question’, students were asked to select from a set of three type of Math problems - word, pictorial, equation.

Activity 1

Activity 2: To get an insight into the understanding of text, students were asked to group the mathematical phrases against basic mathematical operators

Activity 2

Findings

Design

Act-a-story is a tablet based single/multi player game with an aim to teach math related vocabulary and their mapping to corresponding mathematical operators. In this game, students engage themselves in enacting a story with the provided toolkit, while following the textual instructions and feedback on the digital screen.

Toolkit: It contains three characters from the popular comic shows, and three set of objects (with multiple units) to perform simple mathematical calculations.

Playing kit

Gameplay : On the screen, a level in the game will show a small story divided into smaller sublevels. The sublevel displays textual task to be enacted.

Osmo inspired solution

Osmo inspired solution