Creating Innovative Ways To Teach Foundational Math Skills

By Preston Banas ’24

KSC students participating in experiential learning

The King Street Center (KSC) sought the help of one of the Emergent Media Centers (EMC) design challenge teams to research and offer design concepts to reinforce and backfill early foundational math skills for KSC students, grades K-3. KSC is looking for an experience that can enhance math skills while also providing a multi-sensory, engaging, and fun learning experience.

An EMC design challenge team is using Human-Centered Design (HCD) to help facilitate ideas for the KSC. HCD is both a methodology and a mindset. As a methodology, it gives people the tools to create innovative and practical solutions to complex problems. As a mindset, it encourages would-be designers to identify with the people they are trying to help and emphasizes the importance of research and collaboration. The EMC team will work to create several concepts to offer the KSC to help enhance K-3 students’ foundational math skills.

This project is being facilitated by Jen Adrian, the Creative Communications Manager at the EMC. Warren Sides, Assistant Professor of Information Technology & Sciences at Champlain College is the EMC team’s in-house math consultant on this project.

EMC team members playing Sorry! with KSC students

EMC students on the team explain this project in their own words:

“Designing a template/experience for King Street Center school so they can teach kids math in a more engaging and effective way.”

– Egor Fesenko, Game Programming, Class of 2022

“The King Street Center Project is centered around the idea of brainstorming different ways to assist in a problem given to us. For this specific design project, we were tasked with formulating different ways to develop a “gamified” method that can effectively engage children K-3 in worthwhile mathematical activities to reinforce math fundamentals.”

– Alina Coffey, Game Art & Animation, Class of 2023

“We are working with the King Street Center to help K-3 students develop the foundational math skills that they might not be getting in school. Not only do we want these kids to learn, we want them to have fun and really believe that they are capable of math!”

– Addie Anderson, Psychology, Class of 2024

“We are currently working with the King Street Center to find a fun gamified way to help K-3 students build on their fundamental math skills. The overall goal is that this helps in filling any missing gaps the kids may be experiencing when it comes to learning math, and to ultimately help improve their math scores as they reach higher grades.”

-Christian Roby, Game Design, Class of 2022

Student’s explain Human-Centered Design:

“A methodology that makes you look with the eyes of somebody else trying to find a solution to their problem.”

Egor Fesenko, Game Programming, Class of 2022

“Human-Centered Design is creative/design-based thinking revolving around working with people. It involves theorizing potential solutions to a problem, thus making something potentially easier.”

-Alina Coffey, Game Art & Animation, Class of 2023

“To me, Human-Centered Design is a framework for serving people that involves a lot of engagement and empathy. We are not going in to find a definitive solution or solve every problem, but we want to work with these people and devote what time, energy, and resources that we have to improving their experience.”

-Addie Anderson, Psychology, Class of 2024

“Human-Centered Design is a methodology in which we as designers put ourselves into the shoes of the people we are designing for. By doing this we are putting the needs of the people we are designing for first, and this allows us to be more creative with our potential solutions.”

-Christian Roby, Game Design, Class of 2022

The team is implementing human-centered design methodologies in several ways:

“We are going through the general design methodology in order to create plans, templates, and tools for the KSC staff that will help them facilitate math activities.”

-Egor Fesenko, Game Programming, Class of 2022

“For this project, we met with Deena Murphy, who is the Education Director of Tutoring and Enrichment Programs at the KSC. She gave us a tour of the school, an understanding of who the students are, and the problems that KSC is facing. Additionally, we have gathered as much supplemental information from online education sources as well as other educators that we could get a hold of. Furthermore, we have conducted observations of the classroom environments themselves. All of this research is vital in gaining empathy for the situation, which is a main facet of HCD. Throughout this information gathering process, we have been converging to brainstorm and gather insights, and diverging to gather more information.”

-Alina Coffey, Game Art & Animation, Class of 2023

“We’ve been using Human-Centered Design from the very beginning. We began with getting into the mindset of Human-Centered Designers by learning about what our project/goal was for the semester, and then we focused on getting into the mindset of the faculty and students we would be helping in order to best help their needs. This involved a lot of research into early childhood education as well as reaching out to educators and hearing from them. We have also started to immerse ourselves with the KSC going on two separate group trips to oversee and shadow the faculty during their after-school program. Lastly, we have been brainstorming and conceptualizing all of our observations and research into a few different possible deliverables to give the KSC.”

-Addie Anderson, Psychology, Class of 2024

Currently, the project is in the phase of:

“Conceptualization! We are currently formulating cohesive ideas that fit the expectations given to us. We are getting ready for the first draft of sending these ideas to our client for feedback.”

-Alina Coffey, Game Art & Animation, Class of 2023

“As of right now (11/3), we are working on the first iteration of a deliverable, which we are planning on presenting within the next week. After that, we will take feedback and continue to refine our insights.”

-Addie Anderson, Psychology, Class of 2024

“We are currently in the conceptualization phase of the project. We are starting to pull together multiple ideas and we are getting them into a draft presentation that we can send to the stakeholders.”

Christian Roby, Game Design, Class of 2022

Reflecting back the team offers the most valuable part of their experience working in the EMC:

“ Learning a new way of designing solutions to some problems (Human-Centered Design methodology),  and for myself is an unusual position for me (being not a programmer).”

-Egor Fesenko, Game Programming, Class of 2022

“The most valuable experience that I have had on this project was being able to visit the site and actually work with the grades we were tasked to help. I really got to have a sense of how our work could help and benefit these kids in a very positive way! Having that insight gave me the ability to reconstruct my ideation process to cater directly to the needs that the kids at the KSC have. I also really enjoy the group brainstorming process. Having times when the entire team was together and building off each other’s ideas was very exciting, engaging, and rewarding. It offered a sense of what group meetings in the industry could be like.”

-Alina Coffey, Game Art & Animation, Class of 2023

“The most valuable part of this project has been visiting the King Street Center and interacting with the kids that we are designing for. I have worked on a design challenge project before although it was entirely virtual, so being able to physically go to a space and meet the kids that we want to help has made me even more passionate about making a difference with this project.”

-Addie Anderson, Psychology, Class of 2024

“I think the most valuable thing I have gotten has been being able to reach out to the community here in Burlington and work with them to hopefully provide a product that will be used to help these students. Being able to actually meet the people who would be using our deliverables has been a really awesome experience.”

-Christian Roby, Game Design, Class of 2022

This project has been going on since the start of the fall 2021 semester and the timeline for this project has been created in a span of 6 months. By the end of this semester, the KSC team will present their solutions and findings to stakeholders

The HCD team at King Street Center

The team’s main goal for this semester is to:

“We hope to destigmatize the common fears that children form towards math in their primary years at school. We want to make math a FUN experience for these kids while simultaneously creating something that is easy for the fluctuating staff to pick up and run with. Our goal is to make this math process as little like school as possible.”

Alina Coffey, Game Art & Animation, Class of 2023

“Finalize the ideas we have and connect them all together into the final “guide”.”

-Egor Fesenko, Game Programming, Class of 2022

“The main goal of the project this semester is to present KSC stakeholders with a sort of framework for staff members to implement with their students that teaches them a variety of foundational mathematical concepts.”

-Addie Anderson, Psychology, Class of 2024

“Our overall goal is to give the KSC multiple different possible solutions to the design challenge they have given us.”

-Christian Roby, Game Design, Class of 2022