What does Roamer bring to the teaching of mathematics? Is it just for young children?
The answer to the latter question is a simple no! The traditional view is that educational robots are for younger students. But according to Seymour Papert, founder of educational robotics: What is good for thinking is good for thinking, whatever the student’s age.
It is much tougher to answer the first question. The X-Factor, is a vital ingredient. You can’t quite define it, but you recognise it when you see it. It has this strange quality, you see it in one situation, then you see it in a different scenario and mysteriously, it is not it is not the same thing. But it does have the same effect. It makes you think, that was good; that was valuable. So what better way do describe it but through a few examples.
In this activity students program Roamer to get from the start to finish in the fastest possible time. The robot travels different speeds over different terrains. The activity starts with each team performing speed experiments. Minor differences in measurement matter. In a class of 20 or 30 students you will gather enough data to use in statistical analysis.
The X-Factor: This is real data, collected as part of a practical activity that the students are engaged in. It is meaningful to them and they are interested in the results, this transforms their attitude and performance. Note: One robot is sufficient for the whole class.
In this activity Roamer is driven by Graphical Explorer Software. Students can create and explore graphs.The graphs are dynamic. In the example below students can see a highlighted node run along the graph in time. When this is linked to Roamer they can see the movement of Roamer as physical interpreation of the what the graph represents. By chaning variables in formulae or by click and drag methods, they can change the graph and see how this impacts on the operation of the Roamer.
X-Factor: This is an example of making abstract ideas tangible and more meaningful. The physicality of the operation increases the student’s curiosity. They become fascinated with how Roamer responds to their changes.
This is a Classic Roamer activity, that provides an authentic learning problem solving situation, capable of working on different levels difficulty.
Students have to design bus routes and a bus timetable. They use Roamer to model and demonstrate their solution to the problem. In this project students have to decide, what information they need, and how they are going to get it. How will they judge the number of passangers they need to transport or how traffic conditions impact on the speed of the buses at different times of the day? Where should they locate the bus stops?
X-Factor: This is very much an authentic problem. People are so used to seeing buses travelling about, but never think of the mathematics involved in running a bus service. Letting the students decide the maths they need to solve it, makes the subject very real.