Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Despite what they say, folks is okay.

A few months back, I began started a discussion with a fellow at work about developing some math resources.  I had originally planned on some manner of website that had videos and other information that could help students and teachers out. The idea was all kinds of exciting so I did some walking around on the internets to see what all was out there for I had no desire to put all the work into a product that someone else is already doing. It was a short journey for I could quickly tell that the field was flooded with constructs far better funded and staffed than I had any dream of being.  I am sure I would be adding some manner of innovation but not enough to be noticed.
A little down from the initial excitement of the idea I was in the school house and noticed that the kids were all on their phones and all playing games.  Why should I bother with a big ole' website when the eyeballs were pointed at micoscreens?  If I wanted to make a product that could really help with the learning then my best course of interaction would be through mobile devices.
I loved video games in my earlier days but decided to put them down when they would consume too much time and energy.  In the past few years, I have picked up a few mobile games and recognized the oddly addictive nature of them but did not pay attention to what worked and why. I was put into a place in which I needed to do some research and so I found some of the most popular games. What was fun?  Why was it engaging?  What would work for math?  Mobile games need the most simple of interaction between player and game.  The player should have the most simple but repetitive of moves.  A swipe here or a tap there for you are probably playing with one finger.  Now what?  How do wrap up math problems in this disguise; or, more importantly, how do I deconstruct math problems so they become the puzzle?  I was playing 2048 at the time and while the game is really just a matching game, it planted a seed of an idea.  After a various pages of strange notes decorated in steel dirt, children's marker art, and my own doodles I put together the basic board for Whole. 
The smart fellow I work with dug the idea and had a basic version made shortly that I threw at my 7th grade students to see if it worked. They were around the target age and the response was more than encouraging enough for a mobile version to be made.
He put it out in the world before I could come up with a plan or know what to do next.  My favorite way to learn is to be thrown into the thick and just make it happen.  Whole has been on the market for a little over a month and we have developed some manner of boots on the ground marketing campaign with the support of many people.  TechFaster put out an article in the past two days and through that step I am finding how supportive much of the entrepreneurial community is.  People have an interest to see this project do well.  We are flooded with news of evil but most people are not.  They have their struggles and need to be selfish to make it through the day but they do want to see others do well.  One should remember that the next time the news is of the next tragic event.  If I didn't know better, I would say that the liquor companies decided what to broadcast.  "Give them something that makes 'em need to drink." On second thought, I don't know better.

If you haven't yet, check out Whole: A game about fractions. It's free for a little while longer.
Play Store
App Store

The logo at the top is my nice handiwork. Algebrawesome will be a funky place to learn more and be a home to more sweet games.

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Math is just another part of the gradient of study.

As I go through my days teaching and preparing I often hear the questions of "What is math" It is no easier to answer than "What is culture?" or "What is art?" but because math is based in some definition of logic people feel like it should be easily explained.  The answer varies far and wide.  It is most surely not limited to what we teach in schools, particularly in middle and secondary education where it is often distilled into a laundry list of rules.  Primary school studies are closer to the point when they encourage kids to explore numbers and shapes to identify patterns and relationships.  What happens when you change the numbers? Can you derive certain rules from what you observe?
In reality, education has failed in some way when we start hearing, "Why do I need this?" and "What is this?"  The former question moreso for it means someone has lost his curiosity or interest, that a course of study has become a chore with only an end result.  We must strive to find ways to retain that curiousity and enable learning.  This happens when students really learn and see the horizon of possibility expand with each step.  Something as minute as adding fractions may seem small but it can have a real and positive impact.

Monday, May 5, 2014

It's a Whole new game.

So a fellow at work got talking about making some math programming or building a website.  I did some thinking and realized maybe an app would be a good place to start.  More thinking an playing with ideas and paying attention to games, I scratched out the rough idea of a game for adding fractions and Noam took on the task of coding it.  We tested it in the classrooms and the kids really enjoyed it and felt it was a good way to learn fractions. Fractions, in the eyes of a math teacher, are one the most confoundedly difficult challenges.  Many people have a hard time viewing parts of numbers as number in the spaces between whole numbers or integers.  They always want to say 1/3  + 1/4 = 2/7.  The thing is, fractions are one of the gatekeepers to algebra.  We are hoping this game can make a difference and provide students a good way to learn and teachers a little less stress. So, check it out. Whole: A game about fractions.