Shoop, Robin

Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, United States

The Robot Algebra Project creates three scalable, middle school level units for use in informal settings. The units are designed around fundamental robot movement concepts but emphasize proportional reasoning - a big idea in mathematics. There are over 12,000 FIRST Lego League teams across the U.S. that purport to use robots as a motivator to engage students in STEM. However, most of the time the students use guess and check procedures thwarting the opportunity to learn STEM content. The units being developed build upon model eliciting activities, project-based learning and mathematics education to specifically improve student understanding of a few key mathematics concepts. The programming of robots is scaffolded so that students concentrate on the mathematics. Rather than only doing hands-on activities, the students also produce toolkits for other students to engage in similar experiments. Paper- based word problems are developed to bridge the mathematics learned in the context of robotics to generalized mathematical problem-solving strategies. Professional development is provided both face-to-face and through webinars to early adopters who are also trained to provide professional development to others. Materials to supplement the professional development are produced to support teachers and informal educators understanding of the rationale, the agenda, the mathematics and the perspectives that underlie the student materials as well as to also support them in anticipating student responses to the tasks. The materials can be updated online.

Pre and post tests against a control group in standard robotics programs are used to provide formative and summative evaluation. Ten students are interviewed each year about how the experiences affect their career choice. The scalability of the use of the units is measured through observation of and interviews with teachers. In the third year the units will be used in beta sites.

The fundamental goal of the current proposal is to improve middle school level students? algebraic reasoning ability, specifically their understanding of proportionality. A secondary but critically related goal is to improve informal educators? pedagogical content knowledge with respect to algebraic reasoning ability.

The Robot Algebra Project The Robot Algebra Project, an ITEST Strategy Project, is an ongoing research and development project conducted by Carnegie Mellonâ€™s Robotics Academy (CMU) and the University of Pittsburghâ€™s Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC). The team proposed to develop tools for informal education which when implemented effectively would increase middle school age studentsâ€™ algebraic reasoning skills. Our target math concept is teaching proportional reasoning, and we used a rolling robotâ€™s straight and turning movements to introduce students to scale and rate math concepts. Over the course of the project, the team observed many teachers said that they were using robotics to teach mathematics, but we found that few actually foregrounded the robot math in ways that were effective and many teachers avoided talking about mathematics at all. We are learning that in order for teachers to effectively use robotics to teach robot math that they need to foreground the math, talk about it, and measure it before they begin to teach students how to program their robots. Weâ€™ve observed that when teachers tried to teach both concepts, the robot math and the robot programming, at the same time that many students were confused and we were not able to measure significant math learning gains. This project developed multiple strategies designed to enable teachers to foreground the mathematics in their robotics classrooms and they can be found here: Abstraction Bridges - www.education.rec.ri.cmu.edu/content/educators/research/robot_algebra/index.htm The Robots In Motion Cognitive Tutor Enabled Curriculum – www.cs2n.org/activities/robots-in-motion And, the Expedition Atlantis, a Calculated Deep Sea Underwater Adventure - www.cs2n.org/activities/robot-virtual-worlds/expedition-atlantis Robot Virtual World Math Tools - www.robotvirtualworlds.com/videos/MeasurementToolkit.mp4 The team has given numerous presentations and written papers on "Teaching Robot Math" and they can be reviewed at: www.cs2n.org/teachers/research Project Responsibilities CMU was responsible for designing the units and the support materials, the LRDC was responsible for testing and evaluation, the team worked together to develop strategies to improve the product. The Robots in Motion (RIM) Cognitive Tutored Curriculum Robots in Motion was our team's first attempt at developing a comprehensive solution to address student and teacher needs. The full curriculum is hosted online at the CMUâ€™s Computer Science Student Network, http://robotsinmotion.cs2n.org/ The curriculum consisted of three units that contained concepts that became progressively more difficult; the units used a robotics context and taught students about measuring straight distances and angles, proportional distances and proportional turns, and proportional rates. The units used a hybrid approach that involved a combination of direct instruction, Model Eliciting Activities and a cognitive tutor to guide students. This approach proved promising, and provided many insights about pacing and the importance of teachers foregrounding mathematics content. However, the solution's technological dependency on the Flash platform and reliance on internal communication over TCP/IP network ports made the software difficult to load onto school computers, and prevented any possibility of future compatibility with iPads, tablets, or phones. Both of these limitations would have negatively impacted the future scalability of the project, so we chose to switch platforms to the Unity Game Development environment in order to best advance our objective of delivering mathematics instruction. Expedition Atlantis, a Calculated Deep Sea Underwater Adventure – Using a Game to Teach Robot Math Expedition Atlantis took the lessons learned during the RIM curriculum development and integrated them into a game that uses the motivational effects of the Legend of Atlantis, robots, and a graphically stimulating underwater environment to teach proportional reasoning. Students are placed in the role of underwater explorer as they attempt to solve the riddle of Atlantis. Explorers learn how to play the game "in the game" and their intuitive understanding of proportional reasoning is challenged and strengthened as they mathematically move their robot through the underwater puzzle. The game is currently available as a free download here: www.cs2n.org/activities/robot-virtual-worlds/expedition-atlantis The game targets proportional reasoning which is taught in 4th and 5th grade level mathematics classes, but has shown to be engaging to older students also. The game allows teachers to differentiate instruction on students' prior mathematical proficiency through user-selectable difficulty levels: whole numbers only, simple rational numbers only, or all decimals allowed (to 2 places). The game begins with an unexpected crash of an underwater explorer vehicle on its way to Atlantis. The first two chapters comprise an in-game tutorial that teaches students the basics of gameplay while challenging them to maneuver the lifepod robot to safety. Upon reaching Atlantis Base, students play through additional missions in which they acquire mathematically-relevant upgrades for their robots before finally venturing into Atlantis itself. Upgrade parts are specifically designed to enhance the mathematical challenges integrated into the game – for instance, by changing Wheel Diameter or Wheel Separation as the components are installed. Several such upgrades are mandatory in order to complete the game. For more information about the project go to: www.education.rec.ri.cmu.edu/atlantis.

- Agency
- National Science Foundation (NSF)
- Institute
- Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL)
- Application #
- 1029342
- Program Officer
- David B. Campbell

- Project Start
- Project End
- Budget Start
- 2010-09-15
- Budget End
- 2013-08-31
- Support Year
- Fiscal Year
- 2010
- Total Cost
- $549,988
- Indirect Cost

- Name
- Carnegie-Mellon University
- Department
- Type
- DUNS #

- City
- Pittsburgh
- State
- PA
- Country
- United States
- Zip Code
- 15213