The universe cannot be read until we have learned the language and become familiar with the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language, and the letters are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without which means it is humanly impossible to comprehend a single word. Without these, one is wandering about in a dark labyrinth.
– Galileo Galilei (1564–1642)
According to a survey conducted by EmergingEdTech, the biggest challenge for teachers is inspiring students to be more self-directed. As a former Grade 6 homeroom teacher, I have to agree: self-directed learning is the foundation of lifelong learners, and because it is such an important subject that’s addressed by contemporary educators that we’re always striving to find more ways to get the concept of self-directed learning across schools more effectively.
At the same time, I’m also looking at another part of the same survey mentioned earlier: without combining the responses that Agree or Strongly Agree, one of the top three challenges for teachers is keeping students engaged. In some ways, this ties closely to what’s been discussed previously: students who are not engaged are less likely to be self-directed in their learning. When I taught my students math, I find that some of them find certain math concepts difficult to understand because they cannot relate them to real life applications, and the reason why they cannot relate those math concepts to real life applications is because they find them difficult to understand; in other words, a chicken-and-egg problem!
So now, in trying to get kids interested in mathematical concepts which appear alien to them, we first bring them out of this world into an environment which interests them, and then we gradually integrate math into this new world, so they will have the excitement to learn. Thus, we have this idea of creating an alien-themed math app!
But that alone is insufficient; merely having a fun theme to generate temporary interest in kids to get them to learn something would only lead to dispassionate learning, as kids would only want the story and not give a care about learning at all (speaking from experience as a kid who grew up during the mid 90′s edutainment boom and bust, I’ve had my share of games which worked well and games which…did not work as well). Therefore, it is important for us to ignite in them a burning desire to learn more with our own passion for mathematics translated into the spark of creativity which we put into every aspect of the game, be it the story or the design or the development of the app, so at each and every level we want to bring out our passion to show kids one thing: math can be very, very fun too!
So, in summary:
- The ideal: self-directed learners are intrinsically motivated, independent, and responsible for what they themselves want to learn.
- The challenge: how do we get learners to want to learn something?
- The key: stimulating interest, sharing our passion, i.e., why we want to learn math, through this app.
- The future: Kids will be well motivated and inspired to learn mathematics for the rest of their lives.
- The present: support us in our endeavor to make learning math fun!