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December 5, 2019

WPI researchers get $746K to develop math game site

Photo | Courtesy | Worcester Polytechnic Institute WPI researchers (from left) Hannah Smith, Francisco Castro, Olivia Bogs, Gillian Smith, Ivon Arroyo, Erin Ottmar, Richard Valente and Luisa Perez

Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute have received a $746,000 grant to develop a website for children to design and play math games to develop computational thinking skills.

The three-year project, funded by the National Science Foundation, is led by Ivon Arroyo, an associate professor in learning sciences and technologies. Co-principal investigators at WPI are Erin Ottmar, an assistant professor of learning sciences and psychology, and Gillian Smith, an assistant professor in computer science and interactive media and game development.

Computational skills are important because they can improve access to careers in science, technology, engineering and math, Arroyo said. Computational skills typically are not taught until college, but children can learn them because they naturally create and play games with complex rules that require sophisticated thinking, he said.

More than 20 teachers and about 700 students have created and played math games on a website known as the Wearable Learning Cloud Platform, WPI said.

Under the guidance of teachers, students use the platform to play games and create math games for other students, according to WPI. The games require players to physically move around and collaborate in groups while solving math problems and entering solutions into mobile devices, such as smartphones or tablets.

Researchers will test students before and after playing games to determine whether the games improve math scores, and they will assess how students perceive themselves as programmers after making and playing games.

The researchers will improve the Wearable Learning Cloud Platform website by creating tutorials for teachers and students, and by developing a library of math games created by other teachers and students.

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