$3 million grant to fund new app helping kids learn math

The University of Oregon’s Center for Teaching and Learning is developing an app the help children learn math. (Creative Commons) Photo credit: Creative Commons

A new app developed by the University of Oregon’s Center for Teaching and Learning plans to help students who struggle with measurement and data analysis.

The app is funded with the help of a $3 million National Science Fund grant.

It is part of a larger program being developed by CTL that will primarily provide elementary school teachers with a new tool in education, Chris Doabler an Assistant Researcher Professor and project lead, said.

“The whole goal is to set them (students) back on track for math success,” Doabler said.

The project, referred to as a math intervention, will contain ten weekly lessons and requires 30 minutes of instruction aimed at first and second grade students. These book lessons are used by teachers in addition to their standard daily lesson. The app, used by students on tablet computers, will help students organize data and display charts and graphs, Kathy Jungjohann, a Research Assistant, said.

“There’s a lot of like, stuff out there, apps and games and stuff out there, stuff you can do with technology that’s shinny and cool, but isn’t really educational,” Jungjohann said about other apps geared towards children.

The way math is taught in the core curriculum program today only addresses the needs of 80 to 90 percent of learners, Doabler said. The new intervention will help the 10 to 30 percent of students who struggle or are at risk at falling behind in math an focuses on statistics and data analysis.

“This, I believe, is a new area of research for students,” Doabler said.

The team of five core researchers on the project have currently developed one book lesson so far involving a statistical investigation, Jungjohann said. In the lesson, kids are taught to pose a question, make a plan to solve that question, collect data, represent the data, analyze data and finally answer their question. The app’s goal is to help kids learn vocab terms in addition to charting and graphing their collected data.

“[It’s] taking something that’s engaging and tricking them into doing math,” Nancy Nelson, Research Assistant Professor, said about the app.

The project is the third math intervention developed by CTL that involves a digital app. The last program, called Number Shire, focused on whole numbers and is what the idea for the new project stemmed off of, Nelson said.

The developmental phase for the project will take anywhere between 3 to 5 years. Once all the lessons are written, the program will be tested in 20 to 30 classrooms at each grade level in the local area and if successful, expanded to even more classrooms, Doabler said.

“We’re really committed to finding ways to support kids development in the area of mathematics so they can be successful,” Jungjohann said.

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