Physical Prototype
With a piano that allowed me to pre-record a primed tune, I went through a few prototypes and settled on mapping problems onto a piano as you see in Figure 7.  This was based on the research done by Dan Levitin about the ability humans have to distinguish sounds, and we all have the ability to do this because it’s actually a brain process to distinguish pitch sounds, and the piano was perfect. These tones were to serve as a form of feedback to know if you were right or wrong.  Now this activity already is starting to eliminate some users because of the dependency to hear sounds; so tone-deaf persons will not be able to participate in this activity.

After a couple of reactions that informed me that learners were able to distinguish the sounds.  “It does sound different!” (or something similar) became a common phrase as some learners, young and old, experimented with the order in which they were pressing the piano keys.  They experimented until the keys they pressed matched the primed tune.  It is interesting to see the learners desire to use the tools they learned to help solve the answers.   They used songs, and mnemonics such as Please Excuse MDear Aunt Sally, or PEMDAS for short.  These same math literary tools are taught in school, and without being told to use these tools, they were asking to use them as a reminder.  It wasn’t always the case that the learner knew how to use the tool, but at the least they were asking how to use the tool because they knew it was useful.  I took these initial insights and began to flush out the framework more, completing the English component as described earlier and the exogenous story line.

‘Math-Swag Points’


It was time to take my physical prototype and leverage the power of technology.  Figure 7 shows the framework of the activity.  To assist with the transitions of going between math, music, and English, Math Swag Points was created because ‘swag’ is a word in pop culture, which contains very powerful ideas concerning an individuals confidence, almost like it’s the “highest measurement” if one could measure confidence.  So, for this paper, the word swag is defined as “an effortless overall display of confidence or conviction, style, and demeanor; or an exclamation of highest appreciation of praise or respect; and due to the current music kids listen to, swag is everything to these kids, and has been for the last five years.  It’s a perfect term that refers to the heights of where the learner’s self-efficacy should approach when using these literary skills if used properly.Referring back to Figure 7, the math activity had badges you could acquire that referred to the exogenous story line: Prove you are best lyricist get 400– Math Swag Points.  After every 100– Math Swag Points, the learners earned one of the four music layers of the beat, and were given a lyrical challenge to write a four line verse.  And they were told they would get more Math Swag Points if they use a metaphor or simile in their verse; therefore, it wasn’t a requirement, but a choice to use a metaphor or simile; but a challenge.After 400 – Math Swag Points, the learner has written 16-Bars, and they had a beat that they had earned by completing the math and English literary activities.  Afterwards, the learners were given a choice to perform their song (Figure 9 – First Web Prototype).


Map Order of Operations out to Tonal Sounds (web) A) Press the hint button o hear the sound, B) the hint sound matches one of these three problems, C) Previous and Next buttons were provided to change which problem is showing on the keyboard, D) Badges to motivate learner to practice using lyrical devices in context of finishing the activity.



Learner Testing #1

My first learner testing was with Bryan.  He’s a member of the Boys and Girls Club, speaks English, however, English is his second language.  He just finished the fourth grade, however, before this activity, he says he never learned the order of operations, nor does he know what a metaphor or simile were.  He still participated in the activity because he wanted to create a song, which is a good sign of intrinsic motivation.  To do this activity, he had to receive tutoring lesson covering the topics of order of operations, metaphor, and simile.  In the end he knew what order of operations were, and could tell what a metaphor and simile were.  However, the clutter on the site was distracting for him throughout the activity, and he never could get into a flow of working independently; I always had to guide him. However, this tool, made him excited learning these topics to create a song, and that was great to see.  He got 400 points, and then created his song.

Learner Testing #2

While working with Bryan, I learned of a better method to present the activity, so that it had a better flow for the learner.  Since it hadn’t yet been programmed, I described the flow to Eliot (Web Prototype 2) when I first started working with him.  Eliot is in the fifth grade.  He plays the guitar and was excited about the activity because of the music.  When the activity was explained to him, he expressed that he wished there were guitar sounds instead of the piano sounds; he also says he enjoyed math and was good at solving expressions.  After working with Bryan, I also decided to use a worksheet to describe the activity (Appendix-B).  This worksheet became a pre-activity and post-activity to warm the user up to using the web prototype.  Then I told him to imagine the flow of the game is like Web Prototype 2 (below), even though at the time the prototype looked like Web Prototype (above).  He received these instructions pretty well, however, it still took a couple of repetitions for him to experience the flow like I envisioned.  Once he did, he was able to complete the math portion of the activity with no problem.  He was able to finish the activity getting 400 points, however, Eliot was very apprehensive to write and perform.  I had to think, how would this activity work if the student doesn’t want to write, or in context of this activity, they are not motivated to write?  This was a question that I carried over to my next learner testing after I redesigned the web prototype to match what I felt would improve the flow of the activity (Web Prototype 2).


Web prototype redesigned to have more of a left-to-right feel for the user. In addition, three pianos for each problem minimize the number of clicks by the learner; unfortunately there was some scrolling because the third piano isn’t visible. One of the pianos will match the sound of the hint. Learners start by pressing the hint (A), determine which answer matches the hint (B), and select the correct answer (C).

       After Eliot, and the changes were made, I truly felt the flow had improved.  So now there’s three piano’s, no ‘previous’ or ‘next’ to scroll through problems, and the layout was reorganized to have more of a left-to-right flow; however, as you can see here, the 3rd piano isn’t visible so there was still some scrolling. As far as my hypothesis is concerned, I ended up spending a lot of time creating a good flow for the activity so that the music, math, and English could work together in the same environment.Testing this prototype, I saw the learners were excited for the very first time.  They were working independently discussing the operations, and trying to get the maximum Math Swag Points, and writing funny verses.  They were genuinely having fun, and this was the first time this happened on this level, and I would like to call this an unintended success story. Robin, Betsy, and Kevin will be starting the fifth grade in a couple weeks and they are also members of the Boys and Girls Club.  Initially, I was only working with Robin; however, Betsy and Kevin were around and had to join because I learned that they always hang out together.  This probably was the best decision made to test this activity.  I wanted this to be an independent activity, however, I learned that it made an excellent group activity, as these kids were learning together, and the issue of not wanting to write music (like Eliot was having) was solved by them working in their zone of proximal development – where they “ behaved beyond their actual age, and their daily behavior” (Vygotsky, 102). From what I was observing, I began to envision how this activity would look in a classroom, so that students could benefit from working together.Another enlightening moment came when I asked them, “What would happen if you did this activity in school?” Betsy puts her hands up, imitates her teacher, stands up, points to Robin and says, “Sit down!”   This became a very powerful statement because I was considering this to be useful for schools, however, it maybe that this activity is useful outside of schools as well in the eyes of the learners.


Evolution of the metaphor example (left-to-right). The learners are to use this example of a metaphor to write a metaphor of their own.



   Image above shows the evolution of the metaphor example. Trying to find an example that inspires the learner is a process.  The first prototype example, none of the students read it or understood it.   When told that it is an example to help them write their own verse, they couldn’t relate or engage with this example.  The second prototype example, although more detailed in explaining what a metaphor is, tries to use color codes that the learner would use to help explain what a metaphor is.  For the same reasons as the first prototype example, the learners couldn’t relate or engage with this example.  The third prototype example was the most successful one.  It is a line from the hit song, Stereo Hearts by Gym Class Heroes.  Students who read this example instantly new the song, and were able to understand a metaphor a lot better in this context.  In addition, they became more creative because of the process, and having fun creating their own metaphors.   Since they were having fun, this experience seemed very meaningful for them.


Speak Your Mind