Transforming Mathematics Teaching Through Games and Inquiry

Transforming Mathematics Teaching Through Games and Inquiry

Karin Wiburg (New Mexico State University, USA), Barbara Chamberlin (New Mexico State University, USA), Karen M. Trujillo (New Mexico State University, USA), Julia Lynn Parra (New Mexico State University, USA) and Theodore Stanford (New Mexico State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3832-5.ch014


This chapter describes the design, development, and testing of a successful mathematics game-based intervention, Math Snacks, for students in grades 3–7. This program shows the impact of an integrative approach of developing Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK), where interactive digital media are combined with inquiry-based activities in classrooms facilitated by teacher involvement. Teachers played a key role in development and testing of Math Snacks, both by using them in their classrooms and by teaching core mathematics concepts connected to each module during annual summer camps. Via this multi-faceted participation, teachers experienced a change in their understanding of how digital tools can connect with inquiry-based pedagogy, mathematical content and pedagogical knowledge to facilitate successful learning for students. Teachers began to approach multimedia and games as part of an inquiry-based pedagogical approach for mathematics learning, rather than seeing games as tools for student practice after learning a concept.
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The design of Math Snacks began with an investigation of common gaps in students’ understanding of math concepts in grades 3–7. The mathematics education research team in the Institute for Excellence/Equity in Mathematics and Science Education (IEMSE) at New Mexico State University analyzed the results of 24,000 student scores on the New Mexico Standards-Based Assessment (NMSBA). On this test, half of the items were open-ended or short answer questions, so it was possible to see student misconceptions in mathematical thinking in ways not possible on multiple-choice-only tests. Researchers looked at the analysis of test results in several different districts and puzzled over almost identical patterns of strengths and weaknesses in student performance across districts, regardless of economic status, number of English Language learners, or size of the district. For example, students across all districts had particular trouble with number concepts and operations, as demonstrated by low average score points on test items focused on operations with decimals and fractions. Similar patterns of common mistakes were found across the districts in all of the mathematics strands, including geometry, data, and algebra. This research provided a road map for developers interested in designing materials to address common student misconceptions. These findings became the basis of an NSF-awarded grant for the development of innovative media, resulting in modules called Math Snacks.

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