The Mathstronaut gives first through fifth graders an out-of-this-world lesson plan
As technology has advanced, lessons once confined to math books now appear online, in apps and beyond. The more e-learning grows, the more opportunities educators have to make learning fun (read: more engaging). For instance, elementary school students agree: Math is way cooler in Outer Space.
And math is way more fun when you’re on a mission. Meet The Mathstronaut, an iOS math game for first through fifth grade students that launches this summer. In this blog, we’ll discuss how this math-fueled quest to save the Solar System makes educational entertainment effective with three key principles: engagement, math skills that build and performance metrics.
In educational entertainment, engagement is key
“Hurry! Can you save the Solar System?” packs a little more punch than, “Ready to practice your flashcards?” And “Pick your space suit” sounds a little more fun than “Grab a pencil.” When kids become immersed in a narrative, especially one spurred on exclusively by problem-solving, they barely notice how many math skills they’re gaining.
Because piquing interest and keeping kids entertained are two different battles, let’s dive a little deeper into The Mathstronaut story. It all begins with the bad guy: Cypher, a quantum being who can only rise to power if our Solar System falls. He’s got an insatiable thirst for energy, and he plans to source it from our sun, hacking into one planet at a time, starting with Mercury.
The Mathstronaut joins forces with Rubix to build force fields that keep Cypher and his evil band of energy leeches out. But as you probably know, building force fields requires a lot of work – five new math skills per planet if you’re counting.
What it feels like to be The Mathstronaut
Navigating your way through Outer Space to stop an evil nemesis is complicated enough. Here’s how it feels to navigate the app:
- Visit Mission Control to see a map of all the planets.
- Click on Mercury to find out what skills you’ll learn during your visit.
- Dive right into gameplay or prepare for battle with a practice round complete with tips & tricks.
- Repeat this process for each planet as you advance through the Solar System toward total math domination.
Math skills that build like the storyline
In the classroom, every day brings a new lesson. To be an effective tool, an e-learning game should do the same. As The Mathstronaut advances through space, students advance through fundamental math skills that provide a strong foundation for future problem-solving. Let’s take a look at what first through fifth graders learn on Mercury.
If elementary mathematics were a house, Mercury would be it’s foundation. On this planet, students learn number sense, a skill that sets the tone for all future math classes.
In his essay “Number Sense—Right now!” Francis Fennell, former president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics wrote: “My goal, hope, and wish are for all students to leave elementary school with a strong sense of number that will then expand and develop in middle school, before engaging in higher-level mathematics at the high school level.”
In the case of the Mathstronaut, number sense expands and develops over five levels on Mercury before students engage in higher-level skill throughout the game. Take a look at what two different students learn on Mercury:
What a 1st grader learns on Mercury
- Counting shapes up to 10
- Counting 1’s and 10’s up to 20
- Counting forward and backward using a 1-50 number line
- Converting 10’s and 1’s – multiples of 10
- Place value up to 100 – 10’s and 1’s
What a 5th grader learns on Mercury
- Placing value in decimals – up to hundredths
- Rounding decimals up to hundredths
- Comparing decimals
- Ordering decimals and fractions
- Converting decimals to fractions
Some math apps focus on a single skill and teach through repetition in the way timed multiplication quizzes do in the classroom. But for a game to be worth the screen time, it’s ideal for each new skill to build on the last. This is how The Mathstronaut’s quest to save the Solar System becomes a quest for knowledge. But is it effective?
Data & analytics make for the most effective math games
Educational entertainment that teaches students without tracking their progress gives parents hope that they’re learning – but proof is better. Chances are you’ve never showed up to a parent-teacher conference to hear, “Becky’s doing great. Trust me. Goodbye.” Beyond giving parents confidence that students are learning, like effective press conferences, effective math games also can identify where there’s room for improvement. The Mathstronaut offers performance analytics for parents and teachers.
Short-term progress: analytics after each sub-level
Once a student completes one of five sub-levels, you can see including her longest streak of right answers, overall accuracy and one to three stars based on performance. You’ll also be able to observe her working memory.
Long-term progress: overall skills progression
To zoom out and view overall growth, you can view the stats screen. This way you’ll learn a lot more than whether your student completes all of his work. In addition to the accumulated scores we already mentioned above (accuracy, working memory and more), you’ll also be able to see:
- Average sub-level completion time
- Strongest skill
- Skills that need improvement
- Longest streak & total number of streaks
- Overall practice time per day or week
You can test all of these features when Ditch Wizard Games debuts its first planet, with five math skills per grade level. Meet us on Mercury!
Mathstronaut, your mission, should you choose to accept it, takes off this summer.
Visit The Mathstronaut website and enter your email to receive a FREE download link when the app becomes available!