Revised Project Description-- February 24, 1998
We are working on a program whose main goal is the reinforcing the money component of the Math Curriculum of the first grade. The Supervising teacher is Ms. Lona Robillard. The main instructional topics stressed in the program will be a brief review of coin recognition, coin counting, the determination of whether an item can be bought given a certain amount of coins, and the actual use of coins to purchase items (e.g., which coins should be used to buy an 85 cent toy).
Although this program will be principally used by Ms. Robillard as a review of topics already taught in class, it will also contain an introductory sequence which will graphically present the major skills needed to answer the question contained in the program. This introduction will introduce all of the coins, and the concepts of adding coin values, comparing values (more than, less than) and the method of determining whether an item can be bought.
Ms. Robillard emphasizes that she wishes the program to entertain as well as instruct her class. For this reason, the format of the program will have the students encounter the problems as they make their way through a maze. The "object" of their adventure will be to search for a number of hidden objects in this maze which will allow them to achieve the mission presented at the beginning of the program. Students will make their way from one room to another, each room containing a question which they must answer before they can move on. Each room will also contain an analog clock on which students will be able to watch the time, as they have only until 6:00 to finish their adventure. This latter feature will also serve as a review of time, a topic which the class will have learned and be reviewing at the time they use the program and Ms. Robillard hoped could be incorporated in some way.
The questions themselves will be of a variety of different types. The easier ones will ask students to count an assortment of coins given to them and report the amount of money, and ask students to take a certain amount of money from a palette of coins and place it in a bank. More difficult problems will present students with a toy containing a price tag and a certain amount of coins and ask whether it can be bought, present a similar toy with a full palette of coins asking the students to choose the coins to buy the item, and find a pile of coins containing the same amount of money as a given pile. The hardest questions will be to find to choose from four piles with coins the one with a different amount of money and to complete a pattern, determining which of a choice comes next.
One major constraint placed on our project is that Blessed Sacrament's computer lab contains Macintoshes with only 4 MB of RAM. Due to this, the only programming tool suitable is HyperStudio. The RAM constraint also cuts back on the number of graphics that will be able to be used in the program, and a good amount of experimentation will be needed to determine how many graphics can be used at all. One possible way this problem can be averted is by making the program consist of a number of "stacks" which launch each other at the appropriate time. Our group is still investigating the feasibility of this option.
Our group will meet weekly with Chad Wolfsheimer (the supervising TA) and will also meet weekly as a group to discuss our progress on the programming and what the next step should be. We hope to do most of the actual programming in pairs, although due to tight schedules, it seems likely that a relatively large amount of individual work will be necessary. The weekly meetings, however, will insure that everyone is up to date with that is going on, and with what needs to be happening. We have met once with the teacher and will be visiting the class for the first observation this coming Friday. We hope to involve the class slightly with the programming process by giving them periodic updates (either in person or by e-mail that Ms. Robillard will read) on how their program is progressing and what we are currently working on. In addition, we are going to have the class choose the overall theme of the program (or as we'll phrase it with them, "where our adventure will take place") from the two choices we have narrowed it down to -- a Haunted Mansion, or at the Animal Circus.
At this point, we are in the beginning stages of programming. We are putting together the general navigational structure of the game, and the opening sequences in Hyperstudio and searching for appropriate graphics.