I was playing Badminton a few days ago when I had an interesting realisation. I am more of a beginner-intermediate player, and I was quite happy to play players of the same level. Though sometimes I did play newcomers, they were not the most fun games for me – I was always trying to find a player as good as or better than me.
When I did get to play players who are much better than me, although I enjoyed it at the beginning, very soon it was becoming a futile exercise. Apart from losing games, which can sometimes be demoralising, I also started becoming conscious of wasting the opponent’s time.
Then it stuck me – the implications challenges can have on learning. As you might agree, we need to present the right level of challenge for a child to stay motivated to solve a given problem. You could stretch a child to learn her 10 times table if she is comfortable with her 5’s. But if she is yet to master counting on, times tables can be too big a challenge, for example.
A lot has been said of adaptive learning and customising questions to a student’s ability, but not a lot has been spoken about the implications it can have on a child’s confidence. Continuing from the previous example, if the child is comfortable with her 5’s, but for some reason continues to struggle with her 10’s for a sustained period of time, would a worksheet with loads of questions of 10’s than 5’s be the right way to stretch the child’s ability? On the other hand, if we load the worksheet with 5’s because she’s struggling with her 10’s, are we doing enough to motivate her?
I don’t claim to have answers. I’m very curious to know if you do. For now, in our game Mathscraft, we have introduced zones of comfort:
- Comfort zone
- Stretch zone
- No-go zone
Going with the same example, her comfort zone would be her 5’s, stretch zone would be 10’s, and no-go zone would be the other times tables. We calculate the probability of she getting her answer right, based on previous answers, and we move her to stretch zone, only when the probability passes a defined level. We also automatically revert her back to her comfort zone, if the probability of she getting her answers right in her stretch zone goes below a defined level.
We are still experimenting with the definition of these levels, and we hope to find the optimal levels that will keep the child motivated. We think this is the best way to stretch a child’s ability – would you agree? I’m also curious to know if you have other thoughts/opinions on this – please email me if you do at email@example.com