Mathematics games for realistic mathematics education in primary school

Presentation for the ICME 10, Denmark, July 10, 2004.

Vincent Jonker, Frans van Galen, Freudhenthal institute, Utrecht University

KidsKount is an educational webside which hosted by the Freudenthal institute for international users. It contains a collection of small computer tools, so called applets that can be used not only at home but also at school. They are written for the several mathematical strands for elementary school (age 6-12) for example: number sense, number and estimation, measurement, and geometry. The KidsKount website consists of two levels:

1. Educational website KidsKount

2. Network of teachers

KidsKount finds its roots in the development of Realistic Mathematics Education (RME), a theoretical approach towards the learning and teaching of mathematics, in the Netherlands. The principles that underlie this approach are strongly influenced by Hans Freudenthal’s concept of “Mathematics as a human activity”. He felt that students should not be considered as passive recipients of ready-made mathematics, but rather that education should guide the students towards using opportunities to reinvent mathematics by doing it themselves (Gravemeijer, 1994).

Collaborative learning

Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) is one of the innovations to improve teaching and learning with the help of modern information and communication technology. Collaborative or group learning refers to instructional methods in which students are encouraged or required to work together on learning tasks. From research known that collaborative learning can enhance students’ performance (Mercer, 1995) and new skills for the teacher are necessary to guide this process (Fischer, 2000).

Four goals of KidsKount:

1. To enrich the mathematics lesson

On KidsKount we investigate what kind of ‘dynamic’ use of computer tools can be added to the normal textbook items that can enrich the mathematics lesson.

2. To explore the possibilities of internet use

When all users work on the internet and can make use of the same resources, it is possible to communicate with each other. For this reason, the ‘Problem of the Month’, a monthly mathematics interactive problem, is placed in the heart of the website. At the Dutch equivalent of KidsKount, thousands of children (from grade 4 to 6) play this game and send their answers to a central database.

3. To facilitate collaborative learning

To have a good collaboration between children, between a single student and a teacher, and between a group of children (small groups and whole class) and a teacher requires a good organization of technology use and other classroom activities.

4. Try to make the gap smaller between school-learning and home-learning

Below you see a ’normal’ distribution of internet use per day (24 hours)

One day of visits of KidsKount

Throughout the day this is an expected distribution (with peak at 9 am, 11 am, 2 pm). Interesting is the last-smaller- peak at 7 pm. This internet use is not during school time, so this must be at home. Of course, that is very interesting for the place and effectiveness of mathematics education.

Conclusion

KidsKount is getting popular in the Netherlands, especially the free use by children, not embedded in a classroom situation. There is a growing amount of teachers who like to integrate this kind of technology use. The first finding in the area of home learning are promising, but further research must make clear what is exactly learned and how we can build a bridge between school use and home use.

**Literature**

Gravemeijer, K.P.E. (1994). Developing Realistic Mathematics Education. Utrecht: CDbeta press, 200pp.

Mercer, N. (1995) The guided construction of knowledge. Talk amongst teachers and learners. Book-Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd. ISBN 1-85359-263-3

Fischer, F.en Mandl, H. (2000) Facilitating the construction of shared knowledge with graphical representation tools in face-to-face and computer-mediated scenarios. CSCL 2001 conferentie

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