Making mathematics more mobile

Since personal computers became mainstream, a couple of decades ago, different kinds of computer games and (more or less) educational software have been developed. The proponents of these software and games often claimed that their particular software would revolutionize education. Seymour Papert was one of the true pioneers, and when he invented the Logo programming language, the intention was to improve children’s thinking and problem solving skills. Technology has developed rapidly over the last couple of years, and computers as well as computer games and software have become more and more mobile. Enter MobileMath! This is a computer game which has been developed by the Freudenthal Institute, and it appears to be strongly connected with their ideas concerning Realistic Mathematics Education (RME).

Three colleagues at the Freudenthal Institute – Monica Wijers, Vincent Jonker and Paul Drijvers – have written an article where they discuss how MobileMath can be used with secondary school students. The article is entitled MobileMath: exploring mathematics outside the classroom, and it was recently published online in ZDM – The International Journal of Mathematics Education. Luckily, it is an Open Access article, so it should be available to everyone for free! To sharpen your interest, here is a copy of the article abstract:

Computer games seem to have a potential for engaging students in meaningful learning, inside as well as outside of school. With the growing availability of mobile handheld technology (HHT), a number of location-based games for handheld mobile phones with GPS have been designed for educational use. The exploitation of this potential for engaging students into meaningful learning, however, so far remains unexplored. In an explorative design research, we investigated whether a location-based game with HHT provides opportunities for engaging in mathematical activities through the design of a geometry game called MobileMath. Its usability and opportunities for learning were tested in a pilot on three different secondary schools with 60 12–14-year-old students. Data were gathered by means of participatory observation, online storage of game data, an online survey and interviews with students and teachers. The results suggest that students were highly motivated, and enjoyed playing the game. Students indicated they learned to use the GPS, to read a map and to construct quadrilaterals. The study suggests learning opportunities that MobileMath provides and that need further investigation.

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