Our Algebra 1 Solution, Part 2: The Teacher’s Dashboard

May 25, 2021

Algebra I Solution part 2 cover
Algebra I Solution part 2 cover

Developing a good product always involves intensive user research. So, who are our users? Mastory has a diverse group of stakeholders, making the user research quite complex. Students and teachers are users, schools are customers, school committees or functional managers are influencers, and parents are further stakeholders. In this blog post, we will focus on the user group of teachers. We will talk about their needs and goals for teaching math and the possibility of using Mastory to support their teaching. Mastory may increase the students’ motivation for math and the tool we provide for the teachers allows them to always have an overview and maintain control: the Teacher’s Dashboard.

Teachers’ Needs

Let’s get to know the user group of the teachers. What are their needs? What is their main challenge and do they have a solution for it? The best way to answer those questions is simple: ask them! And that is what we did. We conducted teacher interviews, got great insights, and drew implications for Mastory.

The challenge of motivation

The biggest challenge for many teachers is getting the students motivated to learn math. Most students perceive math as boring and cannot relate to it.

Some of the teachers solved this challenge by connecting mathematical problems to topics that are important to the students. That is exactly the concept Mastory is applying, by creating a science fiction story as a motivational framework for mathematical content. Both teachers and students proved science fiction stories to be a favored topic for high-school students. Implication #1: Continue developing our product! It makes sense.

We asked teachers about their practices related to homework and their experiences with flipped classroom approaches. We also wanted to know how they use the curriculum. It turns out, most of them assign homework, but they do not rely on it too much. We also learned that they have had good experiences with flipped classrooms, so our concept to implement Mastory as a flipped classroom approach to replace homework was validated. We also learned that they follow the curriculum but do not necessarily conduct all the lessons. Implication #2: Show teachers how the mastory episodes correspond to their regular instruction and let them schedule their own instruction. Prepare additional subplots to be able to stretch and squeeze the episodes to fit the timeline.

An important problem for many students, especially for our priority students, is that math instruction often occurs as an individual practice. But students prefer collaboration over individual work. Implication #3: Provide the opportunity for students to discuss mathematical problems, motivate their collaboration with appropriate challenges, and let teachers check if the artificial intelligence (AI) we use has done a good job moderating the chat.

The teachers we talked to all love to give positive feedback and badges to reward their students. They find this is a very effective way to motivate them. We at Mastory believe that the most sustainable way to keep students motivated is to give them an important and active role in an exciting social experience. The appreciative feedback, focusing on their assets and effort lets students feel that their role is important. Implication #4: Show teachers all assets and strong points of the students, which are recognized by our AI.

It is important for teachers to keep up with their students. They are even interested in what their students do on the weekends to determine the topics that are driving the students and to use them while teaching math. Implication #5: Give teachers the opportunity to follow what their students experienced in the Mastory app, and give them hints on how to use the Mastory experience for their instruction.

Using our product

Collecting these important insights and deriving the implications for our product was a great step towards a useful and motivational solution! The next step was to order the information and functions for the teachers into a meaningful structure. So the questions we needed to answer were: WHEN do the teachers need WHICH information and functions? When is our product USEFUL and which interactions really ADD VALUE? User Journey Maps are a powerful tool to answer these kinds of questions with respect to specific use cases.

One exemplary use case could look like this:

Mr. Pete, a 45-year-old math and English teacher at a Title 1 School is a math enthusiast. His biggest challenge while teaching math is passing on his enthusiasm to his students. One of his colleagues, Mrs. Rose has tried out Mastory and was totally passionate about it. This convinced Mr. Pete to take a closer look at Mastory, still skeptical if it would also work for his class.

The User Journey Map looks like this:

Finally, we came up with 4 basic use cases:

  • Get live insights

  • Get an overview and plan the course

  • Monitor individual progress

  • Manage your class

Introducing our Solution: The Teachers’ Dashboard

Based on the user journey maps for the 4 basic use cases, we developed a tool for the teacher to interact with Mastory, the Teacher’s Dashboard. It provides 4 main tabs: Live to have live insights about what is going on, Course to get a full-year overview of Mastory’s Algebra 1 story and to plan the course accordingly, Students to monitor individual student’s progress, and Class to manage the teacher(s), students and courses belonging to a class.

Use case #1: Get live insights

Let’s have a look at the Live tab, where the teacher gets live input about all students’ interactions going on right now.

The upper area shows previous and current challenges and the progress of the class during an ongoing episode. It helps the teacher get a quick overview of how far students got before they come to class.

Teachers get a real-time full overview of what is happening right now in the Mastory game universe. They see the same applications that students see on their cell-phones and can access each one of them to observe the latest student activities.

A live ticker is additionally reporting the most important recent events in the game. As a rule, they are always asset-focused and positive in contrast to the deficiency view that is still common among teachers.

Use case #2: Get an overview and plan the course

Let’s continue and have a look at the menu Course, which suits the needs of Mr. Pete from above. It includes:

  • the curriculum the teacher follows,

  • the Mastory storyline,

  • the correspondence between curriculum and storyline, and

  • hints on how to integrate Mastory with regular instruction.

The Course Algebra 1 consists of many episodes, leading the class through one school year. The Mastory Algebra 1 story is like one season of a sci-fi series that covers the whole school year. An episode consists of the following 4 steps:

  1. Motivating start with Mastory:
    The students are confronted with a mathematical challenge as part of the story.

  2. Switch to the corresponding curriculum lesson in class:
    The teacher explains the mathematical concepts and has students do some mathematical training.

  3. Get back to Mastory and become a problem solver:
    The students are now equipped with the necessary mathematical skills and can start trying to solve the challenge while discussing it in the chat with their peers.

  4. Get it done:
    The students submit solutions. The teachers can monitor the collective progress.

Use case #3: Monitor individual progress

Let’s move on to the Students tab, where the teacher is constantly provided with the progress and interactions of individual students.

Jason’s engagement throughout the entire school year is represented in comparison to the whole class in the upper left corner. The highest priority for Jason’s progress involves visualizing his strengths. As mentioned before, focusing on the students’ abilities in a positive manner is one part of the core mindset at Mastory. Teachers and research confirm that this positive focus has a great positive effect on students’ motivation and mathematical performance. On the right side of this screen, the teacher gets updates on Jason’s activities in the Live Ticker as well as on Jason’s contributions in the chat discussion.

Use case #4: Manage your class

The 4th tab provides the management of the class, including the list of teacher(s), students, and Mastory courses. This menu is in the development process right now. The functionality will offer the possibility to add teachers to a class and define their roles (class teacher / assistant teacher). The students can be added, muted in the group chat, or contacted individually. The list of courses contains active ones, already completed ones, as well as the ones planned/proposed for the future.

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To learn more about the concept and practicalities of Mastory, please stay tuned for our next blog entries and read the ones we have already posted. Be a part of our journey!

This blog post is part of a series where we introduce the various components of our upcoming Algebra 1 course. If you have missed out on the first part of this series, make sure to have a look!

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