PiBot: Math & Action is an endless runner game with action elements, using motion sensor controls with the support of Microsoft Kinect, designed for the teaching of pre-algebraic patterning skills for the early childhood. The role of patterning is considered essential for the development of mathematical concepts and processes. This is the reason why working with patterns is introduced in early childhood curricula. In order for patterning to be developed, students need to identify the underlying mathematical structure, which is dependent on a variety of skills, such as counting, subitizing, grouping, partitioning and sharing.
Research findings suggest that children of this age have the tendency to identify, complete or repeat a pattern. However, this tendency does not suggest a systematic action, where they actually have a complete understanding of the rules behind the pattern and a teaching intervention is needed for this skill to be developed.
Players can control the vertical movement of PiBot using their body by physically jumping, thus making the robot jump. Patterns increase in complexity and size as players advance during the game. A team-mode is also offered, where the control of the robot can switch among teammates, by raising one’s hand. This mode allows players to observe and offer feedback on the actions of their peers. PiBot aspires to provide an intrinsically motivating learning experience to students by combining gaming components with physically challenging elements, offering a unique interaction between players and the game.
The game raises an interesting opportunity for researchers and practitioners to monitor the impact of a physically challenging activity on the teaching of pre-algebraic mathematical skills. The nature of the game, offering a set of possible answers to repeating or completing as well as identifying relationships and structure of a pattern, provides a first layer of monitoring the progress of players over playing time.