Type: pervasive mobile storytelling game
Purpose: motivate children to become motivated in learning mathematics through a story-based adventure on African savannah with mother leopard and her cub.
Place: South Africa, Finland and Mozambique.
Technologies: Client: J2ME; server: Java, PHP, MySQL; wooden fraction rods
Contributors: Eeva Nygren and Ubium Oy
UFractions is a story-based mathematics game that originally aimed at motivating children in rural South African schools to become motivated in learning mathematics. The game was later deployed also in Finland and in Mozambique. The story was based on a mother leopard and her cub who needed players’ help in avoiding dangers and finding food to eat. Players help leopards by solving intriguing fraction problems with help of colourful fraction rods. Answers to the problems are inserted via mobile screen by selecting a correct answer or writing it with the phone’s keypad. Game concept art and instruments are presented in the following figure.
During March 2009 we ran successful field tests for 8th graders at five schools in the North West province of South Africa. We repeated the same tests for 8th graders in Finnish schools in 2010 and in Mozambique in 2011. The following figures presents some of the test participants in the midst of game play. The findings suggests that while the game truly enabled the children to engage and become motivated, contextualisation efforts are needed when taking the game away from its original context (South Africa).
There has also been an experimentation in making the fraction blocks smart in order to enhance interaction and enable new types of tasks. In Intelligent UFractions the players can input the answers directly with fraction sticks. Mobile phone is still used for delivering the story. The system encompasses a special surface on which the smart fraction rods, tagged with special fiducials, are manipulated. Embedded camera detects position of each rod in real time, allowing the game to send immediate feedback when needed. Figures below presents a design sketch for the system which is already implemented but not yet evaluated. The smart rods with camera-readable fiducials are placed on two tracks separated by a ruler (top), and then camera reads the fiducials from the bottom of the table through glass surface (bottom). Intelligent UFractions was created in collaboration with Andrew Smith from Meraka Institute, South Africa.