The inspiration came from an experience one of our team members, Anthony had. He was in an AP English class where they were discussing educational reform as a class. Someone suggested abolishing all math classes beyond Algebra 1 stating "It's boring and no one uses it in real life." The class cheered in agreement. Initially, Anthony dismissed the sentiments of the class as ignorant nonsense. When our team convened, other members of the group shared personal stories and stories of peers being frustrated with, detached from and disinterested with math. The recurrence of these stories made it apparent to the team that these sentiments were symptomatic of a larger problem: Math is not instructed in a way that is accessible and fun to students, as result students have no frame of reference in the importance of math. We aimed to solve this problem.
What it does
Solve is a video game to make mathematical concepts more relatable. A problem with how math is taught is that it that it is just shown as a bunch of symbols and numbers, which can be intimidating and cause students to lose interest in math. From our personal experience, we agreed that we best understood math when we saw a physical or visual manifestation of it. So, we created a game in which users could think about concepts of mid and upper-level math through the physical manifestation of blocks of different colors. In our game, the user would be faced with an equation. The goal is to isolate one of the blocks. As the user progressed through the levels, the equations would require the understanding of more mathematical concepts. Throughout, curated supplemental material would be made available to the user to understand these concepts in a broad-based way and to understand how they could be used practically. The result would be to have kids who can conceptualize the abstract concepts of math through a puzzle game.
How we built it
All of the elements present in the game are simply rectangles rendered using the simple graphical capabilities of the java system library, with the notable exception of the font which is nothing more than processed images (see the Visual Effects class). The program itself is a simple “immortal” java program with a Jframe and a 40 Hz clock. The switching mechanic works by taking the instance represented by each block and adding or removing them from multiple Arraylists held within the program, simulating the action of multiplying or dividing by an abstract number.
Challenges we ran into
Initially, we designed it to be a resource for for students to use to contextualize the application of maths in industry and in day to day life. You would see the primary disciplines of high school math (algebra, math, calculus etc.), which branch off into concepts of that discipline. You can find an abstract summary, curated sources which describe day to day and industrial applications of that concept, and gamified interactive examples. However, we realized that this simply would be boring for students to use, which would defeat the purpose of the programs, so we revamped it. We pivoted towards a cohesive more fun, simpler game that can incorporate the concepts of math. We retained the structure of menu=>disciplines=>concepts, but we made the higher level concepts unlockable through mastery of lower level concepts. This progression is compatible with how math is taught and adds to the experience of the game, as people want the feeling of achievement when they play games. In short we made this change in order to get more students interested and playing while maintaining the educational integrity. We also realized with our time restraints we could not flesh out the idea to the degree we envisioned. The problem was compounded by one of our group members, Issac, having to leave almost immediately. In addition, in the middle of the night our best programmer, Sydney got sick and had to leave. This left us with two guys with minimal coding experience and the file that we were working on on a team member’s computer was not here. Luckily by 10am we got a hold of Sydney. He told us the principles of what he was coding and we were able to continue working.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are proud of our MVP, though it's not well fleshed out it is a good shell to build off. More importantly, we are proud of the idea we think our idea is a unique way to teach math and think it has a genuine use.
What we learned
We learned the importance of teamwork and communication when developing a project. We found that we worked best when everyone had a good idea what everyone else is working on and what we were working towards, instead of everyone doing their own thing.
What's next for Solve.
Because of the challenges we faced in the development we need to add more content and flesh out more of the functionality that we envisioned. We need to do more research to see how we can best incorporate higher level math concepts. We want to create a website that is convenient to use. The that that we all go to the same school will facilitate further development.