This past April, the front cover story of the popular New York Times Magazine was about the Minecraft Generation. The article was about the millions of kids all over the world who are solving some fairly complicated problems with spatial intelligence and uncanny initiative. They are also solving these problems peer-to-peer and, most importantly, without any traditional adult supervision. The learning template of open-ended problem solving in a game-based environment is the model that schools are now clamoring to install inside the classrooms.
And, the subject which is getting the most attention in terms of companies trying to digitize/modernize the learning experience is mathematics. Unfortunately, many of the companies are just digital facsimiles of the dreariness of 20th-century education–worksheets.
However, there are a couple of companies that understand that digital learning does not mean interacting in a way that feels like you are in MS-DOS. One of these companies is Dreambox, a rich resource that makes the important concrete/manipulative learning of mathematics come to life on the computer. Geared to the imagination of K to 6 students, Dreambox is a wonderful program to be used in the home.
Another company that has seriously invested a lot of time in building rich and interactive math pedagogy is Netmath. They are uniquely Canadian, and the only bilingual product in Canada. Their design technology is so creative and progressive–3D shapes can be rotated and unfolded for students to see the nets of objects from any perspective–that the company has been selected to design the website for The Global Math Project in 2017
The learning of mathematics should be fun and whimsical, and here Netmath delivers with their playful interactive tools, animations, and technological support. In addition, the company has a strong social media presence and interacts with the math community by releasing video blogs every 2 weeks..
As mentioned earlier on, the use of technology must meet at the intersection of play and curiosity for meaningful learning to occur in mathematics. Simply typing in answers is addressing the struggles of 20th century learning and not the triumphs of those that are reflective of the 21st.
Luckily for parents and schools, there are two innovative and creative companies that have set the benchmark for the rest.