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Serious Game Builds Covariational Reasoning Through Dynamic Visualizations and Adaptive Feedback

Image credit: K20 Center at the University of Oklahoma

Functions of the Machine, developed by the K20 Center at the University of Oklahoma, was selected as a finalist in the 2019 Serious Games Showcase and Challenge in the Business/Nonprofit Category.

Targeting College Algebra students, typically high school seniors, college freshmen, and college sophomores, Functions of the Machine builds an understanding of the purpose and nature of mathematical functions through scaffolded problems. Players are asked to repair a mysterious machine by solving a series of increasingly complex puzzles. Each puzzle is designed to practice the student's skill in covariational, proportional, and/or graphical reasoning and provides adaptive feedback after each attempt.

The feedback system is a major highlight of the game: privileging immediate and corrective (not negative) feedback after each failed attempt, it provides guidance and help during gameplay, allowing players of varying skill level to engage with the game through scaffolded problem solving.

According to the developers, covariational reasoning has been identified by researchers as an essential skill for being successful in higher-level mathematics. Even so, covariational reasoning (and related topics like proportional and graphical reasoning) are rarely taught.

Functions of the Machine tackles these topics and adds dynamic animations that help students visualize the relationship between variables.

Image credit: K20 Center at the University of Oklahoma

In the game, you’ve been charged with a peculiar task: decipher the function of a strange machine designed by an eccentric inventor. As an innovator in the field of manufacturing, Nicole Edisla has left a warehouse full of her machines in the wake of her auspicious disappearance. The purpose of these machines is a mystery, but Edisla has left extensive notes. It is up to you to use her nots and an understanding of functions to get the machine up and running once more.

The Edisla machines represent functions, which have a covariational relationship between their inputs and outputs. By solving problems with these machines, the player builds a conceptual understanding of functions. Each problem is more complex than the last, allowing players to slowly build their understanding as they progress through the game.

Image credit: K20 Center at the University of Oklahoma

About the K20 Center at the University of Oklahoma
The K20 Center for Educational and Community Renewal at the University of Oklahoma is a statewide education research and development center which promotes innovative learning through school-university-community collaboration. It is said to be an “Oklahoma powerhouse of authentic resources for teaching and learning for Oklahoma’s educators and students in grades K-12.”