For K-12 students who want to go to college, algebra is an essential subject. Many states now make success in algebra a high-school graduation requirement.
But learning algebra is more than just mastering procedures and symbols. It requires the integration of specific knowledge with abstract reasoning and problem-solving skills.
Depending on how these skills are taught, algebra instruction can either be highly engaging and exciting—or dry as dust.
Strategies and Solutions
To make algebra teaching and learning more engaging and effective CAST developed two learning games—MathScaled and MathSquared—for tablet computers.
MathScaled is based on a balance-scale format often used in algebra classes to support understanding of equations. The goal is to place shapes of varying weights on a balance scale without tipping the scale.
MathSquared are based on the popular KenKen puzzles, grid-like games that use math operations like addition/subtraction, multiplication/division but also require logic and problem solving skills. The goal is to figure out where numbers appear on the grid to produce reach a predetermined result.
The iSolveIt puzzles were piloted and refined with input from teachers and students at four Boston-area schools: Boston Arts Academy, the Edison K-8 School (Brighton, MA), Tyngsborough (MA) Middle School, and the Fayerweather Street School in Cambridge, MA.
In 2013, CAST released both tools through the Apple iTunes store at no charge to educators and students. Since then, the apps have been downloaded over 16,000 times.
In December 2013, the iSolveIt puzzles were featured on Capitol Hill as part of a “Pop-Up” classroom to demonstrate how education technology is transforming the way teachers’ teach and students’ learn. eSchool News featured the pair as “Apps of the Week”. And
The Huffington Post named it one of the best “back-to-school” apps for middle schoolers.
MathSquared and MathScaled were developed with the support of four foundations that are committed to educational improvement: the Oak Foundation, the Intel Foundation, Eastern Bank, and the Cabot Family Charitable Trust.