Simulation-Based Inquiry-Orientated Linear Algebra- IOLA-G

Project: Research project

Project Details


Linear algebra is a vital transition course for students in the STEM disciplines because of its unifying power within mathematics and its applicability to areas outside of mathematics. Accordingly, effective instruction at this stage in students development is paramount. This project leverages the teams previous research and curriculum design in Inquiry-Oriented Linear Algebra (IOLA) and expertise in Game Based Learning (GBL) to explore the unification of curriculum design and game design theories and practices. Throughout this project, the team will iteratively refine a gaming platform, IOLA-G, designed to mimic the problem-centered approach of the existing IOLA curriculum. The iterative process will include investigation of students mathematical activity and learning while engaged with IOLA-G to inform further refinement of the game design. Building on prior research efforts in the learning and teaching of linear algebra and expertise in GBL, the goals of the proposed project are to: a) create a digital game that allows students to virtually experience a version of the IOLA curriculum, b) document the affordances and constraints for learning using IOLA-G in comparison to face-to-face instruction by experienced IOLA instructors, c) compare different game formats to determine which are most conducive to inquiry-oriented learning, and d) use the knowledge gained from a), b), and c) to improve student learning through IOLA-G and to reflexively enhance the existing IOLA curriculum and teacher support materials.
Intellectual Merit. Prior research (e.g., Laursen, Hassi, Kogan & Weston, 2014; Rasmussen & Kwon, 2007) points to the power of engaging students in authentic mathematical activity through inquiry in undergraduate mathematics. Inquiry-oriented courses typically involve an instructor with experience using inquiry-oriented curriculum and a small enough class size that the teacher can engage easily with students in a face-to-face setting. However, these methods and approaches are unproven in other settings. The goal of this project is to explore the extent to which technology can help us extend inquiry-oriented curricula into larger class-size settings. Game Based Learning (GBL) provides a reasonable approach to addressing the constraints that larger class sizes place on instructors implementation of inquiry-oriented curricula. GBL studies show a clear relation between games and learning as games provide a meaningful platform for large numbers of students to engage, participate, and guide their learning with proper and timely feedback (Malone, 1981; Gee, 2003). However, despite increasing advances in technology and policy initiatives supporting the advancement of both active learning and the incorporation of technology in pedagogy, few digital games exist at the undergraduate level that explicitly incorporate research-based curriculum. The goals of this project are to explore the issues involved in (1) incorporating GBL at the undergraduate level and (2) using a gaming platform to expanding inquiry-oriented instruction to larger class sizes.
Broader Impacts of the Proposed Work. The development of a game interface for the IOLA curriculum will allow for the use of this innovative curriculum in a wider variety of settings and with more students than within small face-to-face classes alone. Because the game will be distributed commercially at low cost through existing digital markets, students in more universities and individuals learning linear algebra independently of a school setting will have access to IOLA-G, allowing a more diverse population to interact with the curriculum. Information about the App will be distributed through the current IOLA website, as well as through presentations and workshops at professional meetings of mathematicians, mathematics educators, and other STEM educators. In addition to the impact IOLA-G will have on the teaching and learning of linear algebra, the broader ideas developed through the grant will impact the development of other math and STEM curriculum apps that advance the forefront of GBL design by incorporating best development practices and theories from both disciplines.
Effective start/end date8/1/177/31/20


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $299,999.00

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