Dakota Learning: Computer-Assisted Mathematics Instruction in a Cultural Context
Mathematics achievement of Native American students is the lowest of all racial and ethnic groups, a disadvantage that is evident by the fourth grade. Students living on American Indian reservations, which are located in rural persistent poverty counties, perform even below the national average for Native Americans. Dakota Learning Project (DLP) applies research in mathematics education and computer gaming to bring to commercialization a product that addresses this performance gap. In Phase I we develop and test an educational program that integrates mathematics with the teaching of Dakota culture for students in fourth, fifth and sixth grades. DLP is centered on a computer game interface where a Native American avatar guides the student through collection of assessment data and completion of increasingly difficult problems in computation, data analysis and algebra concepts. Immediate feedback is provided to students, with reinforcement in the form of prizes earned for correct answers. The program analyzes incorrect answers and routes the student to appropriate instructional content based on the type of error identified. Instructional methods offer options of on-line games, quizzes, videos, animation and virtual manipulatives. Teachers receive daily emailed reports on individual student and class performance, with links to recommended on-line examples, class handouts and PowerPoint presentations. In Phase I we compare the pre- and post-test scores on the North Dakota State Assessment Exam for mathematics of students from two reservation schools using the same mathematics curriculum, with one supplemented with DLP. The two schools are located less than 25 miles apart and are closely matched on ethnicity, class size, average achievement and income.Phase II will extend this research to modules covering all state mathematics standards for third through sixth grades, and track student progress longitudinally to document a long-term effect.
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