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Count Me Smart

Educators have long battled over how to teach arithmetic. Constructivists argue that students learn best by “discovering” and “constructing” their own understanding of the underlying principles of math. Back-to-basics advocates argue that students must learn basic facts and computational skills. Curricula written by one side usually completely ignore key components advocated by the other side.

An on-line Blended Arithmetic Curriculum (Count Me Smart), encompassing both the constructivist and back-to-basic philosophies and methodologies, is being developed to teach addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Each Count Me Smart lesson consists of: a constructivist conceptual lesson plan; a back-to-basics fluency building worksheet that students must complete independently at their seats or at home; and an on-line computer “game” that builds conceptual understanding and fact retrieval fluency.

The online game component of Count Me Smart and its delivery over the Internet is a key innovation. The online math games serve as an enticement to motivate students to complete assignments more quickly and more accurately. The games are also an enticement for the teachers. Initially skeptical, teachers respond to the games for two reasons: first, the students were enthusiastic; and second, the teachers appreciated the curriculum design that progressed from theory, to worksheet practice, to a fun game that reinforces concepts and build fluency.

On Line Game Design Criteria

  • Reinforce the constructivist discovery and back-to-basics computational skills taught in the lesson.
  • A fun enticement that offers immediate feedback and gratification.
  • Randomly changing game expression so that, each time the game is played, the student learns the same lesson but never knows exactly which version will be presented. For example, the “add one” game may have a mouse helping count balloons, a wizard counting flying saucers, or a number of other versions.
  • Intuitive, eliminating reliance on upon written messages and student’s reading ability or even the English language. Games must be self explanatory and rely on communicating using well known logos like stop signs.
  • Employ graphical user interface with point and click mechanisms that are touch screen compatible.
  • Incorporate an adjustable timing mechanism that allows variation in the time between question and answer (time out period). The time out period may then be adjusted to compensate for different ability levels-long time out for severely handicapped and very short for the gifted. Timing may be shortened as the student masters the topic, similar to the “higher levels” employed in the typical video games.


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