Mat-Matics is a dance-based mathematics game for K-12 students that encourages them to think flexibly about math by constraining input possibilities. Using a custom dance-pad composed of six buttons: -1, -5, -10, +1, +5, +10, students have to “dance in” the answers to math problems shown on the screen. The goal is for players to discover and internalize the most efficient strategies. Research with Mat-Matics, drew on expectancy-value theory (Ecceles, 1983) and has been presented at the Microsoft Faculty Summit, the 2011 World Science festival, and AERA.
The dance pad used in Mat-Matics is a modified DDR pad made by Red Octane. Using a key encoder, I'm able to connect the pad to the computer easily using a PS2 to USB adapter.For our initial testing we decided to constrain the inputs to ones, fives, and tens as these are standard and useful increments for quickly working with numbers. In the next version, the six numeric buttons will not be "hard coded" as 1's, 5's, and 10's. Instead the value of each button will change using soft keys on shown on the screen. This allows the game to progressively challenge players as they get better at the game.
We're also experimenting with getting rid of the dance pad altogether. One way to do this is to use the gyro scope in most modern smart phones. Imagine an app that loads on the phone and "recognizes" the posture/standing position of the player and enters it as a specific key stroke. The phone itself would be worn by the player in some fashion, perhaps by slipping it in to a chest pocket or a special vest. Once wearing the phone, the player trains the phone to recognize certain positions that correspond to positions on a virtual dance pad shown on the screen.