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Why and how?

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Students know why they have a problem with second languages (difficult to pronounce, mathras, don't know the language), but can't seem to pinpoint why they find math difficult.

Teacher interviews

  • We postpone children’s learning.

  • Most schools have class roughly divided in thirds of level of understanding.

  • All these teachers prefer international boards to Indian boards.

  • Solutions include staying back, remedial classes, new approaches.

  • Manipulatives exist till grade 3 and help a lot.

Focused group discussions - with students

  • Favourites: symmetry and angles - they are easy and have instruments.

  • Complaints about bar models and workaround.

  • Pain point : Multi step word problems

  • “the teacher didn’t tell us that" (about why the area of triangle formula is what it is).

  • Concrete>diagrams>abstract problems.

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Testing existing manipulatives - Algebra tiles

  • Batches of people, some understood immediately, some took a while to understand that x changes.

  • They resorted to mental math when given an inconvenient method.

  • When the students got it and got excited, I gave them bigger numbers, but again, they reverted to mental math.

  • Students are heavily conditioned by practice makes perfect, and I think that gave them a lot of patience.


Math based board game

  • More excitement to play a paper board game than do an activity.

  • Dynamically changed the rules of the game to keep everyone motivated.

  • When they couldn’t do a sum, they all stopped and told me, as opposed to just trying it out.

  • The students managed to conduct it by themselves too.



  • Most children from the same grade have similar likes, dislikes and level in math.

  • All kids enjoy easy and despise difficult.

  • Aural learners like ratios

  • They stick to their methods by nature, unless they’re told how to do a sum (sometimes, even then)

  • They enjoy practice/learning/understanding and just lack the dedicated guidance/time of a parent or teacher to build that familiarity with number concepts.

  • Teachers seem to believe that manipulatives help students learn better, and that it is better to have a student paced syllabus, from experience.

  • The way math is taught requires abstraction, and that’s why students don’t comprehend it. If it is done well, teachers believe that we postpone the productive years of children.

Uno with operators - peer testing

  • Great way to build familiarity with numbers

  • The fact that it looks like a well known and widely loved game makes people want to play it.

  • Interesting way to teach math.

  • It’s actual fun, even at 18-21 years old (probably because we’re not doing math atm)

  • Doesn’t directly address any of the problems/pain points I found.

  • We tried different hierarchies of scoring, chain equations, LHS=RHS, different ways to level the number of cards you hold, different aims (higher score or finish cards), among other things.


Uno with operators - user testing

  • What worked

  • Subconscious excitement from looking like a popular game

  • Connections between numbers : + is reverse of -

  • There are levels and progression possible

  • Able to conduct it unsupervised (almost)

  • The fact that it was a game kept them trying, and even the slow students got it soon enough.

  • What didn’t work : doesn’t directly solve any of the problems.

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Why board game?

  • Allows for easy addition of narratives and levels of complexity.

  • Enough area to incorporate complex gameplay and shift the focus from mathematics to the game itself.

  • Developing the ability to strategize and plan helps with word problems.

  • A board game is something people come back to over and over again, which is, in essence, practice.

  • The kids said they love board games. (survey with sixty 9-11 year olds)

Why word problems?

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  • The aim of this project was creative teaching and active learning.

  • One key aspect of this project is the transfer of information or concepts through play.

  • Manipulatives help, and exist until fractions, some for algebra and none for word problems, just diagrams and bar models. Teachers believe continuing with manipulatives will help.

  • Idea of familiarizing students with numbers, relations between numbers and between operators is another key point in changing the situation.

Math based board game 2 - Find Mr X

The game board is a number line going from -50 to 50, there is a Mr x player who is to hide, and move by the sum, difference, product or quotient of the number rolled and the previous position, while the other players do the same and move around in an attempt to find the hidden location of Mr X (the value of x) by strategic planning and deciding while operator was used at various turns.

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  • Grade 6 found it hard to navigate across a number line, grade 4 was straight up confused.

  • Grade 6, once they got comfortable with the rules, thoroughly enjoyed this game, more than the other games.

  • Grade 4 just wanted to switch back to one of the other games, it was too much brain power for them to enjoy it.

  • Flow of the game works very well, but it may work better as team against team.

  • There was one instance of cheating - it is very easy to cheat.

Math based board game 2 - Chocolate factory

This is iteration 1 of the final outcome, five rounds around the board, aim to collect the most chocolate pieces by strategic movement, some luck and a lot of quick calculation concerning positions and possessions.


  • Incentive to play/win : chocolate reward

  • Incentive to interpret and calculate correctly - no one wants to lose more chocolate than they need to, cross checking each others calculation to avoid cheating.

User testing

  • Instantly took the game forward by themselves, once they knew the rules.

  • It was very common for them to make mistakes while

  • reading the word problems, in the excitement of progressing in the game.

  • Every once in a while there was a mathematical dispute, which needed to be resolved.

  • There needs to be more variety in the stakes cards, maybe even on the game board, so that children aren’t bored after playing it a couple of times, it stays fresh.

  • Too many immunity cards and not enough stakes.

  • Grade 4 played the game but took a while to get comfortable an actually start playing properly, grade 6 started enjoying the game right away.

  • Grade 4 even took a while to start strategizing, they were playing by preference, "I like to multiply so I will."

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