Math Snacks - Addressing Gaps in Conceptual Mathematics Understanding with Innovative Media

Led by Dr. Karin Wiburg (PI, New Mexico State University) and Dr. Barbara Chamberlin (Co-PI, New Mexico State University), the Math Snacks project is developing and evaluating the effectiveness of 15 - 20 short computer mediated animations and games that are designed to: (1) increase students' conceptual understanding in especially problematic topics of middle grades mathematics; and (2) increase students' mathematics process skills with a focus on capabilities to think and talk mathematically (DRL-0918794).

Want to learn more about what's happening with mobile technologies and education? Check out the related resources on the left, which include picks from the Math Snacks team and Dr. Chris Dede, Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.


Q&A with Math Snacks

Dr. Chamberlin answered a few of our questions about how they're using mobile technologies in Math Snacks.

In the context of your project, what do students and/or teachers do on mobile devices? How has this content been designed or adapted specifically for mobile use?

Currently, our iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch apps include animations and one game. Our video players allow learners to view the animations all in one place. With the iPad 2, users can download our videoplayer app, watch and print the companion learner and teacher guides directly from the iPad, without needing a computer.

Beyond providing ubiquitous access, how is your project taking advantage of the particular affordances of mobile technologies?

Of course, the ubiquitous access is *the thing*. Not just to say they can access it when they need it, (which means at home, in-between times, in classrooms without computer labs), but to extend learning to those minutes throughout the day... the 5 minute period tucked between other activities. That's incredibly powerful. The multi-touch screen has us the most excited: it makes navigation better, more intuitive.

How do activities that take place on mobile devices fit into a larger pedagogical model? How do they connect (if at all) to what happens in the classroom?

I like mobile devices in a classroom because of the immediate accessibility. In the field of instructional technology, we've been saying for years that computer apps and games don't REPLACE the TEACHER... yet when the teacher has to check out a computer lab, move a group of students in, adapt to a new teaching environment, log each student in... using technology is a THING in itself. With easier to access mobile devices, it is easier to integrate tech-based learning opportunities into other types of teaching, even if just for 5 minutes. As a teacher, I may not be willing to move a class to a lab for a 5 minute activity. But with an iPad, I can have students use it whenever it fits best with my lesson.

There is a social element to much of what students do recreationally on mobile devices. In your work, what opportunities and/or challenges do you think this presents in the context of learning?

We aren't taking advantage of social networking within apps yet, though there is increasing potential there. We see in our learning games lab, that it is much easier for students to group around a device, or have a conversation that includes passing the app around, than to do that in a traditional lab setting.

What would you be interested in learning from others doing work with mobile technologies in education?

I'm interested in the pass-back applications... meaning, how are games and apps shared among learners, promoted within social networks, given to family members and others outside the target audience?

What’s the next piece of work that you could see coming out of this project?

We've already received funding from USDA to apply our "Math Snacks" approach to undergraduate students in the hard sciences, creating tools that help learners understand necessary math for soil sciences. We are also hoping to find funding to bring our entire complement of Math Snacks apps to mobile devices, and continue developing tools that take advantage of the unique affordances of mobile technology.