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Math Should Be Monstrously Fun

Math is often seen as the feared monster under the bed. It should be seen as the lovable stuffed monster on the pillow. It’s the mysterious stranger who has a secret you want to know. It’s an adventure waiting for you. Kids love adventure. They love friendly monsters. They love to solve riddles. Matific is a highly interactive and highly entertaining way for kids to learn all the important principles and rules of math – developing all the skills they need to master the subject of math while having fun.

The best way to put phobias aside is to think of something fun to do.

# Let the games begin

The First Grade student who’s afraid to work with Base Ten will soon learn it by buying fruits and vegetables from the friendly blue monster in the Monster Shop.

A Third Grader who is struggling with multiplication or division will enjoy Weighing Riddles. It’s the kind of mystery that challenges all young detectives.

The sixth Grader who hesitates to tackle the theory of probability will learn it anyway, and have fun doing it, by throwing some virtual dice in the Distribution lesson.

# Let’s go fishing

Getting the right answer is one way to get some confidence. Building on that confidence takes a little more – fun. The mystery gets a little deeper. We as teachers want to see that the student really understands the process so he or she can keep solving the same kind of problems.

The old adage says, “Give someone a fish and they can eat for a day. But show them how to fish and they can eat for a lifetime.” Besides, fishing should be fun, right?

So how does Matific teach kids how to fish? Complex processes are broken down into simpler ones. In the Analyzing Shapes category, kids play a game that teaches them Volume Fractions, and shows them how to simplify a solution. It’s one example of many activities designed to teach kids how to solve problems one step at a time.

# One picture is worth … well, a lot

If a child can visualize a mathematical problem, there is a much better chance he or she will understand it and be able to solve it. Further, if the child can interact with the visual, the chances of mastery go even higher. Using motor skills and thinking through the interactions help strengthen the understanding and remembering of the process involved.

Matific provides an extensive library of visual and interactive lessons using familiar objects and situations – friendly monsters, toy stores, flowers, pets, and many more – to keep kids interested and engaged. Matific keeps them moving forward in the grand adventure of learning math. There is nothing frightening here – only enjoyable characters to play with, and learn from.

# The learning is educationally sound

Matific lessons are designed by educators using sound pedagogical principles. Students learn by starting with basic ideas and progress to more complex problems and skill sets as they grow. New ideas are linked to more familiar ideas so the transition to new knowledge is smooth.

Teachers can reinforce the lessons by having students verbalize them, by providing instant feedback, and by suggesting further exercises and practice lessons as needed. While Matific provides wonderfully creative ways to provide gratification for students, teachers can add their own rewards, too.

# Matific puts the magic back in math

Matific should be the virtual math partner for all math teachers.  It puts the mystery of math in the classroom, the kind of mystery that kids want to solve. These lessons are educationally rich in their design and creatively executed. They involve students and motivate them to keep learning, keep solving, and keep challenging themselves.

If kids have phobias about math, this will completely change their thinking.

Addressing all common core curricula from Kindergarten through Grade Six, Matific provides teaching and learning support in all subject areas. Recognized by several educational organizations for excellence in pedagogy and best practices, Matific offers proven value in educating school-aged children.

Gifted children are different. You may have noticed. They seem very smart and are quick to learn new ideas. They ask a lot of questions and don’t seem to be all that satisfied with the answers they get. So they ask more questions. They have this burning desire to learn.

In her book, Mindset: the New Psychology of Success, Carol S. Dweck, PhD, calls this a certain mindset to learn. What should be recognized and rewarded is effort, not results.

Gifted children are often impatient with vague or unsure responses. They don’t like gray areas. They want clarity. And they get frustrated without it.

Their problems increase when they get to school and join a culture of peers who are also there to learn. They find out that most of these other students are different than they are. And finding out how to deal with these differences is perhaps the most difficult thing they will have to learn at school.

You as a parent need to know how your child is different so that you can help him or her navigate the world of expectations, relationships, and obstacles to be overcome in the years ahead.

What are some of the characteristics your child may exhibit, and what are the experiences he or she may have going forward that you should be aware of that might affect emotional development?

Here are a few observations from research studies and from professionals in the field of working with gifted children. They may help guide you to a better understanding of the emotional burdens your gifted child will face in an “ungifted” society.

Growth rates are uneven

Each child has his or her own rate of development, and this is especially notable for the gifted child because it may be very different from average children. This includes physical, intellectual, emotional, and social development. Each of these areas can significantly affect the others along the way.

Your child’s realization of being different and your own awareness of his giftedness are the first steps in making his life more understandable, comfortable and satisfying for both of you. Don’t be alarmed if he seems faster or slower in some area of development. Just know that he may be different but in a good way.Development is asymmetrical. It can be ahead or behind peers in some form or other. And it should be noted that a very young gifted child can have an occasional meltdown just like any other child of the same age.

Shyness and introversion are normal

The gifted child is very self-aware and has heightened sensitivity to himself and others. He can be very emotional. He tends to be an introvert and is shy. It would be good to provide social situations where he could be self-expressive without peer pressure, as in family gatherings. And you can expect shyness in school other outside social gatherings. This is normal for the gifted child and no cause for alarm.

It might be a good idea to encourage extracurricular activities at school to facilitate more social interaction and mitigate his shyness.

Students can doubt that they are gifted

Gifted students have to interact with parents, teachers, and especially peers. They feel tremendous pressure in different ways. Parents and teachers have expectations. Peers have jealousies and their own doubts about learning and self-image.

Gifted students can respond to these pressures in different ways. There is a burden associated with being called smart or gifted. They sometimes doubt that they are gifted at all.  They think they have tricked everyone into thinking they were exceptionally smart. Or they think they were lucky instead of smart. Or they say the teacher liked them. This is called the “impostor syndrome” and leads to a fear of being found out and a fear of failure in future endeavors.

As a result, gifted children develop doubts about themselves and their abilities. They start to avoid situations where they might not be good. To avoid any risks, they often become underachievers.

How Big Data is Disrupting Education

Big Data and analytics are the Hammer of Thor in the real world of education. They can be the most powerful weapon in the battle to change the way we teach our children. And, although sometimes lost, like the Hammer itself, these forces are coming into focus more and more as the answer to understanding how children learn and how they can be better taught.

Big data is defined as a set of data so large, it can be analyzed only by a computer. And analytics guide the way data is collected, analysed and applied. Where does this data come from, and who is looking at it, studying it, and using it?

Information gathered today in the classroom has come from teacher-student interaction and test results. Teachers prepare lesson plans, teach units to all students at the same time, provide standard tests in standard ways, and measure results of each student against the results of other students.

Disruption is under way

But new information is now being gathered in unprecedented ways creating big data for understanding how each child learns, rather than how the class learns.

Think about a classroom with cameras that capture every child’s facial expressions, movements, and social interactions every day.

Think about those cameras, maybe with some on the ceiling, that capture whatever the student touches and whatever the student says during the day.

Think about the computers, Chromebooks, tablets and maybe cell phones that the students use, and the tracking of every keystroke. And think about the watch-monitor, the Fitbit-like device, they may be wearing to record their pulse, breathing, meal times, and more.

Now you start to see how big data may be captured to create a three-dimensional learning profile for each student. This is not fiction at all.

This approach is definitely disruptive and a bit controversial. It’s a little Orwellian and reminds us of Orwell’s “1984” description of a totalitarian world. But it is an attempt to make a huge change for the better in our educational philosophy. It attempts to use big data to lead us to an understanding of how to better teach children in the way they like to learn and in a way they learn best.

The method was used in the initial stages of development, in a school cluster in California called AltSchool, a startup that represents the most aggressive initiative to date into the world of big data and analytics for K-12 education.

At AltSchool, software and algorithms searched the big data collected for patterns in each student's level of engagement, emotional state and moods, use of classroom and other resources, social habits, language and vocabulary, attention span, academic performance, and more.

NBA style

The National Basketball League has had the same kind of problems facing the education industry. No team organizations could agree on what the best metrics were for measuring effectiveness. But recently, a few forward-looking teams have been building new information management systems involving big data.

NBA arenas now have many sophisticated camera systems to capture every location, movement, and timing of player actions 25 times per second throughout the game. Teams also track biometric data like sleeping habits and exertion levels.

The NBA big data has led to changing the game. Insights from this data have led to more 3-point shots being taken and more layups because the data said these techniques were the most effective in producing points.

The “passive observation” technique is used in other industries, too, like retail. Stores use video cameras to monitor shopping floors and shoppers’ activities, to track their locations and movements and everything they look at or touch. All this information is collected and connected to purchases – big data, leading to changes in marketing direction.

AltSchool used motion-tracking algorithms to collect and analyze student activities in the same way as the NBA, other pro sports organizations, and retail businesses.

Big data gives insights

The innovative companies in the field of education are hoping big data and analytics will change the game there, too. Maybe the insights will be that 4th graders perform better at math after exercising. Maybe it will show that girls do better at science on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

And maybe Susie is using new vocabulary words in conversation with friends, or Jane is showing Sally how to do the new math. The insights from big data would be distributed, with proper controls, to teachers, parents, and students through a school learning platform. It could lead to recommendations for class scheduling, customized assignments for each student, and different learning activities and curriculum changes.

Suggestions can be tracked for effectiveness, creating a feedback loop of insights, results, experiments, changes, and observations. Information based on big data and cloud computing can be gathered by IoT (Internet of Things) and evaluated by learning analytics. The result could be a constant improvement in individualized learning solutions, taking into account the personal characteristics of each student.

Big data is being used in other ways, too, to provide more comprehensive information on school absenteeism, testing effectiveness, and teacher development, as well as providing the basis for new edtech resources like classroom and remote teaching robots. It’s also being used to plan new school locations based on population changes.

But wholesale changes in the education world will take time. Teachers and school systems are slow to change. School districts have data stored in different silos and find it difficult to combine the information for any meaningful analysis.

AltSchool’s Ventilla is still hopeful of a breakthrough. He says, “The model for education right now is not very susceptible to change. But give us time.”