Tangrams is a game designed by our Ph.D. student, Kamran Sedighian,
with help from Nick Harvey, a former "EGEMmer", to investigate
the effect of various design strategies on children's learning
and attitude towards complex mathematical concepts. Kamran chose
two-dimensional transformational geometry as the content area,
and tangrams as the game activity. The object of the game is to
fit various geometric shapes into a picture by using various techniques:
translation, rotation, and reflection. The game not only teaches
children basic geometry but also how to apply various linear transformation
to form the desired patterns. By gradually reducing visual aids
in each level, Super Tangrams also increase the challenge and
cognitive responsibility for the players. Such additional difficulty
of the game does not discourage children in any way from learning
through playing because with background music, humorous pictures,
and "Learn" - an interactive instructional aid, Super
Tangrams truly engage players in an enjoyable learning "flow".
abstract is taken from Kamran's thesis - "Interface Style,
Flow, and Reflective Cognition: Issues in Designing Interactive
Multimedia Mathematics Learning Environments for Children")
children find mathematics boring, irrelevant to their lives, and
difficult to understand. These feelings are influenced by many
factors. One of these factors is the learning environments in
which children encounter mathematics. The National Council of
Teachers of Mathematics recommends the use of interactive computer
software in children's mathematics education. However, due to
unique cognitive and affective needs, designing interactive software
for Children is complex and challenging. There is need for systematic
interdisciplinary research to provide developers of educational
software with sound design principles. The purpose of this dissertation
is to explore four main inter-related issues:
of educational software often use 'Direct Manipulation' and
'Command-Based' interface styles. What role does the user interface
play in multimedia mathematics learning environments? How do
different interface styles influence learning?
understanding of mathematical concepts is important. How should
the user interface be designed to support children's learning
of explicit, formal mathematical concepts?
is crucial to deep understanding of mathematical concepts. How
should a learning environment in general, and the interface
in particular, be designed to afford 'reflective cognition'?
know little about how to structure tasks to promote the optimal
psychological experience of 'flow'. How should a multimedia
learning environment be structured to be conductive to experiencing
'flow' in learning? What are some design elements that can make
children's learning of mathematics fun and enjoyable?
are few, or no guidelines, for what constitutes effective human-computer
interfaces for educational purposes. Due to a lack of proper interface
design guidelines, designers of educational software for children
often use the interaction styles that were originally designed
for productivity tools. Recently, the casual use of such interaction
styles for educational purposes has been questioned. This dissertation
closely examines the issue of interface design for multimedia
mathematics learning environments for children and makes recommendations
for a new conception of interface manipulation styles resulting
in more effective educational user interfaces.
structure a mathematics activity so that it combines the two elements
of fun and formalism and affords reflective cognition is not an
easy task. This dissertation examines a model of structuring mathematical
activities for children to support their learning. It also examines
a number of design features that help make the learning activity
more enjoyable. This dissertation makes recommendations on how
to design multimedia mathematics learning environments to address
children's affective, cognitive, and pedagogical needs. Moreover,
this research contributes to an increased understanding of how
to design better game-based educational software.
few of the findings of this research are:
design in educational software plays a crucial role in how learners
interact with the educational content, and consequently how
they acquire knowledge and what knowledge they acquire. The
results showed significant achievement differences among students
who used different interface styles. Interface techniques such
as 'scaffolding' and gradual removal of visual feedback can
promote reflective cognition and improve learning.
manipulation graphical interfaces should be used with care in
the context of interactive multimedia mathematics learning environments.
The conventional interface design guideline calling for easier
interaction and exertion of minimal cognitive load does not
necessarily apply to educational environments.
carefully taking into account children's cognitive and affective
needs, the design can help children enjoy learning mathematics.
of background music and visual aesthetics can make a learning
activity more enjoyable.