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Aug. 28, 2013
Two Northwest Missouri State University faculty members have developed an iPad application to enhance elementary students’ understanding of multiplication.
Dr. Jenni Wall, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics, and Dr. Michael Rogers, assistant professor of computer science and information systems, created Fruit Plate Math last spring and launched version 2.0 this month. Wall and Rogers are faculty members in Northwest’s School of Computer Science and Information Systems. They received assistance from Heidi Beatty, an adjunct instructor at Northwest and third grade teacher in the Northeast Nodaway R-V School District.
The free app is designed to assist children who are in the early stages of learning multiplication and help them develop an understanding of how to use multiplication properties. Using images of fruit on plates and the interactive nature of an iPad, the app helps students better visualize and solve multiplication problems.
The app also allows students to engage in a hands-on learning experience and is connected to common core state standards that suggest third grade students should know how to use the distributive property to solve basic facts.
“So many apps only allow students to practice something they already know,” Wall said. “Plenty of research has shown that if students actually construct their own knowledge, they will understand it more fully and will retain it a lot better.”
For example, the app may show an image of three plates with two apples and four bananas – six fruits on each plate – and ask the student to work through the multiplication problem using the distributive property.
By using the distributive property, students can determine the sum by multiplying each addend separately and then adding the products, such as 3 plates x (2+4) fruits = 18 fruits.
“Memorizing facts is definitely important, but this sort of conceptual understanding is far more important to develop at the start,” Wall said.
Beatty also collaborated with Wall on the project by creating a lesson plan and instructions that correspond with the app. Last spring, third grade students at Northwest's Horace Mann Laboratory School helped Wall, Rogers and Beatty test the app.
“Watching students use it at Horace Mann, it is clear that we have something that is both entertaining and educational – the perfect combination,” Rogers said. “I'm looking forward to working on more apps in the math and education realm.”
Already the app has been downloaded more than 400 times in six countries, Wall said.
The app is available to download from the iTunes App Store by clicking here.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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