ST Math as a tool for creating student-centered learning
A successful student-centered learning environment engages students in rigorous activities where they are able to try out their own ideas, make their own mistakes, and then learn from them. ST Math is designed to precisely deliver this type of individualized learning experience. In ST Math, every student receives real-time informative feedback on their unique choices and actions as they try to solve richly interactive puzzles using the virtual manipulative tools that are at the heart of every game.
Additionally, ST Math starts each learning path with puzzles that remove all language and symbols, which enables all students, no matter their previous mathematical or language mastery levels, to engage with critical thinking. For example, in the 4th Grade Fraction Addition and Subtraction Objective, students play the game “JiJi Cycle,” where they have to figure out how far along a number line a series of visual fraction models will roll. Students drag the basket with balloons to where on the ground (the number line) they estimate the fraction model will roll. If they are correct, JiJi—the penguin who is the main character of ST Math—will be able to step into the basket and be lifted up. If the student is incorrect, then the basket will lift up, but JiJi will not be able to get to it. This enables students to learn about adding and subtracting fractions, starting with puzzles using purely visual models, but progressing along the learning path at their own pace to puzzles with symbolic models and more complex questions.
Learning by doing in this way builds deep conceptual understanding of the important mathematical schema for all students. And by enabling them to work through the learning path at their own speed while solving thousands of puzzles over the course of a grade level, ST Math enables students to develop the critical thinking skills necessary to be able to generalize and apply mathematical ideas to the world around them. With its rigorous student-centered, hands-on learning design, ST Math not only aligns with the Common Core content standards, but also provides a very practical way to give students meaningful time with materials that embody the Common Core Practice standards. ST Math can be used to close the experience gap, allowing all students access to rich, challenging materials from an early age.
Nigel Nisbet is director of content creation at MIND Research Institute.