Working Group: Educational Software

Chair: Peter Boon

The following papers and other resources provide the background for the work of this group. Please bear in mind that some of the these papers are informal, or represent work-in-progress. To enable the working group sessions to focus on discussing these and other issues in relation to the conference themes, we suggest that delegates familiarize themsleves with the papers before the session.

The papers described in these abstracts can be downloaded from

Designing Digital Activities

Peter Boon - Freudenthal Institute for Science and Mathematics Education, University of Utrecht The Netherlands

Over the last decade I have designed numerous java applets - English versions of some of these can be found on the WisWeb website. The background to this work is discussed in my article "Designing Didactical Tools And Microworlds For Mathematics Education". A recent article on software design within educational design processes can be found in the May 2009 issue of Educational Designer.

In the last few years I have been working on the integration of these digital activities (applets) in longer learning trajectories that are embedded in a digital learning environment. In close cooperation with schools and teachers we have built the DME (Digital Math Environment). This is an internet based learning environment that is now used by more than 100 Dutch schools. Embedding the applets in the DME offers several new possibilities that improve the usability of applets in educational practices. For example, students' work is stored and can be made accessible for teachers. Also the acivities can be arranged and cusomized by teachers. A recent development within the DME-project is the design of a (mathematical) authoring tool for making new digital activities for students without the need for programming. Applets can now be used (in a flexible way) as interactive components within learning trajectories. I think that the development and use of this kind of authoring facility is necessary in the design of rich and versatile digital curriculum materials.

Designing Didactical Tools And Microworlds For Mathematics Education
Article in Educational Designer
WisWeb website (English)
Digital Learning Environment Example
Digital Math Environment
Digital Math Environment Functions

Sophisticated Numeracy Learning Materials

Kees Hoogland APS - National Center for School Improvement, Utrecht, the Netherlands

Connecting mathematics to the real world is often seen as a motivational tool to make mathematics more meaningful and mathematics education more enjoyable. In other cases connecting to the real world is seen as an explicit goal of mathematics education. Not for motivational reasons, not to learn the mathematics from it, but to learn to use the mathematics in real life situations or to cope with quantitative asopects of the world around us. If this explicitly is the case one speaks of numeracy or mathematical literacy. Concepts of numeracy (education) can be arranged along a continuum of increasing levels of sophistication. According to a review of AIR (2006) all of the most recent influential approaches to defining numeracy fall into the so called integrative phase of this continuum. In this phase numeracy is viewed as a complex multifaceted and sophisticated construct, incorporating the mathematics, communications, cultural, social, emotional and personal aspects of each individual in context.

A closer look however at lesson or test materials used in many different countries reveals that most materials consist of word problems or of exercises with formal arithmetic skills. One could say that the sophistication of the concepts runs way ahead of the sophistication of the learning and testing materials. In this era of technological and multimedia possibilities a next step can and should be made to bring real quantitative problems – problems as individuals face them - into learning materials. The new developed web based multimedia learning materials, presented at this conference, use real life situations in a multimedia environment to close as much as possible the gap between the educational setting and the real life use of numeracy.

Download paper

Designing educational mini-games

Frans van Galen, Vincent Jonker and Monica Wijers
Freudenthal Institute for Science and Mathematics Education
University of Utrecht, the Netherlands

Children like playing online mini-games, even if these are about a school topic like mathematics, but do they learn from these games? This paper is about mini-games that aim at problem solving. We shall argue that there is a difference between designing software that will be part of the curriculum, and mini-games that will be played by children unsupervised. One of the difficulties is that the computer stimulates children to experiment, but experimenting may also keep children from thinking through a problem.

Download paper

Computers in Mathematics Assessment

Daniel Pead - Mathematics Assessment Resource Service/Shell Centre team
University of Nottingham, UK.

This paper details recent research and development undertaken at the Mathematics Assessment Resource Service, University of Nottingham, and focusses on three different computer-based assessment projects: The development of problem-solving tests for the World Class Arena project, an evaluation of a new digital version of an existing paper assessment, and a small-scale design research project looking at issues which might arise from computerising an established high-stakes assessment.

The computer is, ultimately, a delivery medium and not tied to any pedagogical theory: these case studies show that solutions can be found to support – and hopefully enhance - very different assessment cultures. They also highlight many technical, practical and organisational issues and how these could, in some cases, unintentionally subvert the educational aspirations of a project.

Download paper