Problem Solving Maths

My interest as a mathematics teacher and keen user of online games, Nintendo DS, WII, playstation and iPad Apps has brought me to a point where I observe students engaged in virtual worlds and gaming situations using a vast array of problem solving strategies. Once back in the classroom, the students seem to separate into two distinct groups: those who can approach novel problems and go somewhere with them; and those who don’t know where to start.

Alongside this I have had some experience in junior school mathematics program development, and it has been clear to me, and supported by academic reading (Reys, 2009), that students who develop the thinking behind how to problem solve through solving problems are better equipped to engage with this element in the curriculum.

What can we learn from the collaborative nature of MMOG that can be adopted as strategy in classroom?

The use of gaming in education today, and how both gaming and the digital culture that follows from a close involvement in familiar use of new technologies, is a key notion in education today.
In mathematics classrooms, from the early years to the final years of school, students are expected to solve problems, both as part of the curriculum and for their development as members of society today. Problem posing and problem solving are effective ways for students to integrate their learning. With the development of new technologies, the engagement of students in problem solving can be considerably enhanced in classrooms where teachers are able to engage in the digital culture of the students.

Reys, R. (2009). Helping Children Learn Mathematics. Hoboken, NY: Wiley.
Apperley, T., & Walsh, C. S. (2010). Digital Culture & Education: Classroom perspectives. Digital Culture & Education, 2(2), 125-127.

Collaborative problem solving
Students in today’s world have a significantly different style of communicating and interacting with the world around them. The digital culture which underpins their way of being has been defined as that which “encompasses technology, pedagogy, communication and organizational systems” (Snyder, 2007) and it is this digital culture that has implications for education. Technology is used by youth today to connect through social media, to collaborate and to create through gameplay. Technology is no longer seen by the youth of today as a tool, but an “integrated dimension of working and living in the 21st Century” (Snyder, 2007).
There is also a shift in adolescents from individual activity to working collectively, yet in certain subjects and types of assessments the academic culture is “individualistic in assessment and articulation practices” (Petrena, Feng, & Kim, 2008). It is this aspect of the collaborative problem solving nature of the digital culture of adolescents that has been considered.
The resource that I have been developing uses the Apple platform – in the form of iBooks collected together into an iTunes U Course. iTunes U is a free APP and courses put into the iTunes U library are free to view and download on an iPad, iPod or iPhone. Courses have generally been uploaded into iTunes U from universities, with only a handful of courses directed to school students at this stage. This is an exciting environment, because not only are students bale to progress through the books at their own pace, they are also able to self-correct, access hints and provide reflections to the teacher on an individual basis. In many senses this simulates a game in that there are ‘levels’ to progress through, hints to aid progression and instant solutions when questions are attempted. This has been very rewarding, as students have thoroughly enjoyed being involved in this way, and they have developed some independent problem solving skills as a result.

Snyder, Kristen M. (2007). The Digital Culture and “Peda-Socio” Transformation. - International journal of media, technology and lifelong learning, 3(1).
Petrena, Stephen, Feng, Franc, & Kim, Juyun. (2008). Researching cognition and technology: how we learn across the lifespan. Int J Technol Des Educ, 18, 375-396.