Changing Children's Stance towards Mathematics through Mobile Teaching: The Case of Robot A.L.E.X.

Changing Children's Stance towards Mathematics through Mobile Teaching: The Case of Robot A.L.E.X.

Andreas O. Kyriakides (European University Cyprus, Greece), Maria Meletiou-Mavrotheris (European University Cyprus, Cyprus) and Theodosia Prodromou (University of New England, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8714-1.ch006
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In this chapter, we argue for the importance of embedding computer programming into existing mathematics curricula through the use of educational games apps. We illustrate the apps' opportunities by showing how programming was incorporated into a task undertaken by a group of 10-11 year old students. This was their first experience of computer programming at the primary level. The results of this study contribute to understanding a) the development of students' reasoning about mathematical concepts and procedures throughout the participants' engagement with A.L.E.X. app, and b) students' articulated impressions about educational games apps with mathematical content, including students' acknowledgment of the pedagogical role that an iPad could play.
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Educational leaders and professional organizations in mathematics education (e.g. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000; Commission of the European Communities, 2007; Common Core Standards in Mathematics, 2010) have for several years been calling for the adoption of more active, student-centered learning environments that motivate learners, and encourage them through authentic inquiry to establish the relevance and meaning of mathematical concepts. The shift is being reflected in most countries’ educational policies and official curricula, which advocate pedagogical approaches that support inquiry-based, problem-solving learning of mathematics. Nonetheless, empirical classroom research points to a disconnection between curricula initiatives and calls for reform and actual classroom practice and suggests the persistence of traditional, teacher-centered approaches (European Commission, 2007; Barab et al., 2001; Klette, 2009; Tiberghien & Buty, 2007; Seidel & Prenzel, 2006). The literature indicates that, in practice, inquiry-based teaching and learning of mathematics is still not widely implemented (European Commission, 2007; Euler, 2011). With some notable exceptions, mathematics instruction continues to be characterized by traditional, abstract formulation, without sufficient opportunities for students to engage in problem-solving and experimentation (Mor et al., 2006).

Research on teaching, learning and student cognition highlights that the process of teaching and learning in the sciences is complex and cannot be easily reduced to a set of algorithms and procedures (Leach & Scott, 2000). The construction of meaningful understanding of mathematical concepts is supported by instruction that is collaborative, active, interactive, reflective, constructive and contextual (Bransford & Donovan, 2005). These characteristics of learning may be realized through a game-enhanced approach to mathematics instruction. The existing literature indicates strongly the educational value of games within mathematics education (e.g. Jonker & van Galen, 2004; Ke, 2008; Kolovou, van den Heuvel-Panhuizen & Köller, 2013; Resnick et al, 1996).

The current chapter reports on the main experiences gained from a study which incorporated ALEX, an educational puzzle game available on tablet devices, within the primary school mathematics curriculum. ALEX, which uses programming logic in a game setting, belongs to the constantly growing list of educational apps that aim at developing young children’s rudimentary programming concepts through games. In this study, we explored ways of using this coding game app as a tool for enhancing mathematics teaching and learning.

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