In response to a well-documented need to improve algebra learning, CAST this week released two innovative, research-based educational games that teach essential math reasoning and problem-solving skills. The puzzles—MathScaled and MathSquared—are now available through Apple’s iTunes Store at no charge.
“Solving puzzles is a great way to develop and strengthen reasoning and problem-solving skills, skills that both the Common Core State Standards and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics identify as essential,” says Elizabeth Murray, Sc.D., the senior research scientist at CAST who led the project. “Building these skills will give all learners a leg-up in algebra, which we know is an important gateway subject to postsecondary education.”
Finding patterns or functions, creating models, working with variables, and making predictions are just some of the skills the puzzles help develop. The puzzles are not tied to any particular curriculum or content, so they can be used at different grade levels and ages. Demonstrating universal design for learning (UDL) principles—which call for flexible, learner-friendly approaches—the puzzles can be solved via multiple strategies.
MathSquared puzzles are grid-based (like the popular KenKen games) that use basic math operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, as well as logic and problem-solving skills. MathScaled has a balance-scale format to support understanding of equations, as well as logic and problem-solving skills. The goal is to place the shapes on the balance scale so that the scale is balanced.
Teachers will find tips for integrating the puzzles into their lessons, short tutorial videos, and specifics about using the digital puzzles to support student persistence on the freely available iSolveIt website (http://isolveit.cast.org/). CAST developed the website using its open source UDL Curriculum Toolkit as a means to provide ongoing support to the iSolveIt user community of teachers, students and education researchers and developers.
The puzzles were developed as part of the iSolveIt project at CAST, with support from the Oak Foundation, the Intel Foundation, Eastern Bank, and the Cabot Family Charitable Trust. The puzzles were piloted in several Massachusetts schools. For more information, including a video overview of the project, go tohttp://isolveit.cast.org/.
CAST is a nonprofit research and development organization that works to expand educational opportunities for all individuals through Universal Design for Learning. To learn more, go to www.cast.org.