Despite multiple efforts directed at making schools all-digital, paper is still far from disappearing from our classrooms. This is especially true in primary schools, as many parents and teachers consider that paper-based skills like handwriting should still have a prominent role in the education of children. Paper is tangible, cheap, familiar, reliable, easy to carry around, so… how can we leverage this and integrate paper with digital technologies, complementing each other’s strengths?
Ladybug: a tangible game to manipulate and learn to compare fractions
Mathematics continues to be one of the most difficult areas for primary school students. Concretely, the notions of fractions and proportionality (taught around 10-11 years old) are some of the most difficult ones to grasp and understand, and often lead certain students to a kind of “blockage”. Different graphical and symbolic representations or metaphors (e.g. a round pie being divided in several portions) are often used to aid in the first steps within this tricky subject.
- Easy manipulation: The familiarity and ease of use of the paper elements let students build fractions effortlessly, thus helping students avoid the block when being confronted with such abstract notions.
- Multiple representations: By playing with different representations of fractions, students progressively construct their notion of fraction, leveraging the properties of the different metaphors.
- Pedagogical flexibility: Rather than “railroading” the teacher to a sequence of representations or exercises, teachers can flexibly choose which paper elements (and in which order and level of difficulty) best fit their students’ needs and knowledge.
- Non-digital use: Paper manipulatives can still be useful for students while away from the tabletop, or even at home.
- Collaborative: The tabletop format and the nature of the activities makes the activities especially interesting to foster collaborative groupwork.
- Caballero, Daniela, Yun Wen, Luis P. Prieto, and Pierre Dillenbourg. Single locus of control in a tangible paper-based tabletop application: An Exploratory Study. In Proceedings of the 9th ACM International Conference on Interactive Tabletops and Surfaces (ITS 2014), Dresden, Germany, November 2014. (ACM link)
Acknowledgements and funding
This project is part of the Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship MIOCTI, whose goal is to study and model classroom orchestration, and to propose and evaluate solutions to enhance such orchestration, using tangible user interfaces and paper computing.