A Star Trek style classroom to boost kids' maths

Researchers are designing new interactive multi-touch ‘smart’ desk classrooms which have been found to boost pupils’ mathematical skills.

Using multi-user desks in the  “classroom of the future” the children were able to work together in new ways to solve and answer questions and problems using inventive solutions.

Results from a three-year project by  Durham University who worked with over 400 pupils, mostly 8-10 year olds, show that collaborative learning increases both fluency and flexibility in maths.

It also shows that using an interactive ‘smart’ desk can have benefits over doing mathematics on paper. The ‘Star Trek classroom’ could also help learning and teaching in other subjects.

Seeing what your friends are doing, and being able to fully participate in group activities, offers new ways of working in class, the researchers say.

The findings published in the journal Learning and Instruction, show that children using these SynergyNet classrooms improve in both mathematical flexibility and fluency, while children working on traditional paper-based activities only improve in flexibility.

Researchers found that 45 per cent of students who used the desks increased in the number of unique mathematical expressions they created, compared to 16 per cent of students in the traditional paper-based activity.

“Our aim was to encourage far higher levels of active student engagement, where knowledge is obtained by sharing, problem-solving and creating, rather than by passive listening. This classroom enables both active engagement and equal access,” lead researcher, Professor Liz Burd, said.

“We found our tables encouraged students to collaborate more effectively. We were delighted to observe groups of students enhancing others’ understanding of mathematical concepts. Such collaboration just did not happen when students used paper-based approaches,” said Burd in a statement.

Researchers designed software and desks that recognise multiple touches on the desktop using vision systems that see infrared light.

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