Case studies of a robot-based game to shape interests and hone proportional reasoning skills

 Robot-math is a term used to describe mathematics instruction centered on engineering, particularly robotics. This type of instruction seeks first to make the mathematics skills useful for robotics-centered challenges, and then to help students extend (transfer) those skills. A robot-math intervention was designed to target the proportional reasoning skills of sixth- through eighth-graders. Proportional reasoning lays the foundation for further progress within mathematics. It is also necessary for success in a number of other domains (engineering, science, etc.). Furthermore, proportional reasoning is a life skill that helps with daily decision making, planning, etc. However, it is a skill that is complex and often difficult for students. Previous attempts to design similar robot-math activities have struggled to focus students’ attention on key mathematics concepts (in complex engineering domains), and to motivate students to use the math properly. The current intervention was designed with these challenges in mind. This intervention centers on a computer-based 3D game called Expedition Atlantis. It employs a game design that focuses student attention on a specific proportional reasoning task: students calculate correct quantities of wheel rotations to move the robot to desired locations. The software also offers individualized tutorials. Whole-class discussions around daily word problems promote further application of proportional reasoning outside the robot programming context. The 1-week intervention was implemented by three teachers at different schools with varying levels of ability among students.

Alfieri, L., Higashi, R., Shoop, R., Schunn, C.D., (2015). Case studies of a robot-based game to shape interests and hone proportional reasoning skills. International Journal of STEM Education, 2(4).

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