|AnimalWatch is an intelligent tutor whose goal is to raise young girls’ self-confidence in their math skills during a critical period in their development. This system develops a model of the user and customizes its feedback to the student. Tests with 4-6 graders suggests that girls’ confidence and image of their mathematics ability can be positively effected. The system has been very well received by teachers and students in Massachusetts and California.|
DetailsIt is well documented that women are under-represented in math and science career fields, a problem that is getting worse instead of better in areas such as Computer Science. One phenomena often cited as a turning point for girls in their math education is a drop in their self-confidence that occurs between 5th grade (11 years old) and 8th grade (14). Before fifth grade girls participate fully and perform as well as boys; after this period they loose interest and often drop math courses when they become elective.
An intelligent tutor called AnimalWatch was built with the goal is to raise girls’ self-confidence in their math skills during this critical period in their development. Studies shown that girls are not as attracted to and typically use competitive and excitement-oriented paradigms to engage the user preferring instead activities whose content is less game-like and which features more characterization and role playing. AnimalWatch has been designed with these features in mind, using the study of endangered species (such as Right Whales) as a context for problem-solving, and providing the student the opportunity to select a mentoring character as a guide through the activity.
A built-in assessment framework provides feedback about the student’s problem-solving activities and emphasizes critical thinking skills more than mechanical problem-solving performance. Multimedia creates rich, interactive environments.
The tutor has been tested in numerous trials between 1996 and the present. These tests have yielded encouraging data on the potential for boosting girls’ self-confidence in math. and results suggest that AnimalWatch has potential to raise self-confidence for girls, though the short exposure to the tutor (<= 5 hours) and small sample sizes make it difficult at this time to demonstrate a clear effect. These trials have been designed first to gauge the broad effects of the tutor, and then to assess whether the tutor’s help features improve student performance.
Note: Though AnimalWatch was originally designed with young girls' math-skill needs in mind, it has also been tested and found effective in increasing confidence and skill in 4th through 8th grade boys.
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