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Discussion: Traffic Jam Applet tool
Topic: adding to the Conversation vs. restatements of same
Related Item: http://mathforum.org/mathtools/tool/10/


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Subject:   grade levels for entertainment vs tools
Author: Dennis
Date: Apr 24 2003
I see a gradual shift from upper elementary (4-6 grades) through junior high
(7-9 grades.)  Prior to that high entertainment value plays a big role in
gaining and sustaining interest.  By high school students expect more formal
approaches.  In between both approaches can be very effective.

Some tools can be accessible and interesting to younger kids.  Games and
simulations, of course, can be useful learning tools even in graduate school.
As someone pointed out before, the important thing is not so much whether
entertaining software is appropriate, but the connection between the
entertainment and the content.

In many programs there is little or no connection between the entertaining
aspects of the software and its educational content.  Older kids see through
this deception and even younger ones come to view the math as a chore that must
be completed for a fun reward.

Truely effective programs integrate the content and the entertainment, e.g.
finding the missing number in a sequence actually plays a role in the game or
story.  This not only supports the learning of the subject matter at hand, but
reenforces the notion that math is actually fun itself as well as good for
something.

Middle school is a fertile ground for software that integrates tools and
entertainment, where the software presents content in an entertaining context
and provides tools that are useful in this context and beyond.

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