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Playing Around on the Numberline

As a learning games research lab, we’re always interested to talk to people who are making research-based commercial games and apps. We recently got the chance to talk to Gabriel Adauto and Jacob Klein from Motion Math, a San Francisco startup designing and developing games to teach number sense to elementary and middle school students. They talked to us about their games, the research the games are based on, and the process they use to build them, and we were pleasantly surprised at how much their work has in common with ours.
The game we looked at is called Motion Math Zoom. It shows a number line with animals lined up along it to illustrate the scale. It starts with frogs and dogs for the ones and tens, but you later discover a plethora of other critters, from dinosaurs for the thousands down to amoebas for the thousandths. Players use the pinch and spread UI to zoom in and out and experiment with scale. In my own work at STEP, I have seen the importance of playfulness in games and giving players the chance to “mess around” in a sandbox-like environment. I loved the constructivist way in which this game lets kids explore the number line on their own, zooming in and out and moving left and right as much as they want before they complete the task at hand.