BrainSTEM was an interactive education project with Elizabeth Forward School District (Elizabeth Township, PA) to develop immersive, interactive experiences for middle school students using the SMALLab (Situated Multimedia Arts Learning Lab), developed by Arizona State University.
SMALLab is a unique piece of technology that focuses on embodied learning, which blends learning with human-computer interaction. Embodied learning is collaborative, multimodal, and kinesthetic: by having students interact together in a physical setting, through touch, sight, and sound, they are more likely to remember what they learned long-term.
During this project, a team of students worked with the faculty at Elizabeth Forward Middle School to pinpoint areas of learning that students struggle to master, and create embodied learning experiences that transform the classroom experience into a fully kinesthetic learning environment.
We focused on Math and Language Arts for 6th and 7th grades, creating 3 fully polished and customizable teaching experiences for the classroom. The games we created focused on fractions, the order of operations, and prefix/root/suffix connections and comprehension.
In this game, students sit in a circle facing the center and hand off the wands around the circle to change the shape of the pie pieces. The challenge of the game is to match the goal written around the edge of the circle by matching the size of the fraction as well as the color.
This game is highly customizable and allows teachers to make the challenge fit their students’ skill level to practice the skills and principles they need. Each pie piece is customizable for the format it displays (fraction, decimal, angle, percentage, or blank), as is the goal, so the teacher can create subtraction, elimination, addition, and conversion problems.
The game is heavily discussion-based, as it was important for us to have a game that kept the teacher really heavily involved with the students and motivated them to practice cooperative and discussion-based problem solving.
Prefix Pagoda is a SMALLab learning experience created by the BrainSTEM team at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center. This game focuses on practicing students’ understanding of prefix, root, and suffix definitions and how they fit together for 6th and 7th grade classrooms.
In this game, students act in two teams that compete to build the largest pagoda by building levels. A definition appears on the pagoda along with a series of prefixes, roots, and suffixes, which students must link together in the pagoda to form a word that matches the definition above. When they build the right word, the team gets a shower of fireworks and their prefix grows larger. If they don’t create the right word, an earthquake occurs and they get the chance to try again.
This game has a lot of different applications, including teaching foreign languages! This game is highly customizable and allows teachers to fit the game to their current vocabulary lists and language arts curriculum.
Order of Operations
In this game, students are split into three kingdoms, and their objective is to reach the treasure in the center of the map. In a relay-race style game, students tap the operators that need to be combined in the correct order to simplify the equation. By solving more equations, they get stones that build a bridge to the center island, where the treasure is buried.
The second stage of the game involves more problem solving and algebra skills, where students work to fill in the blanks in an equation, given the numbers but not the operators. Once they solve the problem, they get a key and can unlock one of three treasure chests, giving them gold, potions, or a goat.
This game is highly customizable and allows teachers to make the challenge fit their students’ skill level to practice the skills and principles they need.