Teachers help children understand math using 3D


A non-profit educational group in California are assisting teachers build 'manipulatives' - toys and tools that help children learn using 3D printing.

Developers from MIND Research Institute, say that one year of education technology in classrooms has a considerable impact on the students' performance.

Ki Karou, a game-based learning designer at MIND, says in the past it was difficult to get students the required tools due to cost and purchasing issues.

He said: “We’ve seen 3D printing as a new tool that not just us, but other people, can use to get into the hands of kids.”

The MIND Research Institute started their 3D printing manipulatives last autumn at the University of California, Irvine.

“Kids especially learn best through hands-on experiences,” Karou said. “Manipulatives as a class of objects are really a way of taking these abstract symbols and bringing them to life so that kids can get more of a concrete understanding of how the math works.”

One benefit of 3D printing is if a teaching instrument gets broken or lost, teachers can print a replacement and get back to work.

Using 3D printers to teach math presents a new set of challenges. Karou says school districts might need to provide new resources to make the idea work.

“You’re going to need someone who’s really dedicated,” Karou said. “Someone that really understands how to use the technology and can explore that and find how to bring it into the curriculum.”

Students at Pasadena Unified Schools are already using computer-aided design tools and 3D printers to build objects for their math and art classes.

The MIND Research Institute's six-person content development team works on building teaching tools to assist students with the necessary conceptual help for understanding math concepts.

Matthew Peterson, co-founder and CEO of the MIND Research Institute, said once students make the transition from word-based learning to visual learning techniques, learning math will be more interesting to them.

“This simple innovation of removing the language barriers is able to elevate math proficiency everywhere we put it,” Peterson said.

Meagan Mead of MIND said there are many ways a 3D printer can help students’ conceptual understanding of fundamental and complex mathematics. “A 3D printer is a perfect example of an input/output system, where a completed printed product demonstrates that it’s made of a network of ‘x,y,z’ coordinates creating the structure of an object, and the technology can show students concepts like how to intersect a plane with a cube."

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