STEM Builders

These projects are investigating the core foundations which build up conceptual reasoning in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines.

Pre-school Mathematics: Critter Corral

Children's early math skills are powerful predictors of later school achievement, and there has been an increased focus on math learning in preschool, particularly the development of a flexible understanding of number. This goes beyond simply knowing the counting sequence to include cardinality, relative magnitude, estimation, numeral identification, 1:1 correspondence, and set composition/ decomposition.

To help preschoolers develop a flexible understanding of number, we created Critter Corral, a freely available iPad app. The child's goal is to help return a Wild West town to its former glory by helping the town's businesses. In all games, the task is to create a 1:1 correspondence with a target amount. For example, to help the restaurant, learners count customers to tell chef how much food to cook. Count correctly and each customer happily gets one piece of food. Count too few, and the chef does not cook enough food and some customers are left hungry. The learner can fix it by adding or taking away food. We think this kind of feedback, which focuses learners on the quantitative discrepancies, will be particularly helpful for relative magnitude concepts (e.g., 3 is less than 5). In an ongoing study we compare it with other common feedback approaches for young children, including modeling the correct behavior, and allowing unlimited guesses until correct.

Conference presentation: