A robot class is helping to improve math skills among middle school students by engaging and rewarding them for problem solving and applying what they are learning in math. In addition, their test scores in math achievement have risen after just one semester.

Soft SkillsIn the Northwest Local School District in Cincinnati, a state grant funded initiative to promote innovative intervention using C-STEM, a combination of computing science, technology, engineering and math is having a profound effect on students who are learning to program small robots for specific tasks.

The district obtained one of 23 Straight A Fund grants from the state of Ohio, and started working with Harry Cheng, professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of California, Davis.  He is director of the UC Davis Center for Integrated Computing and STEM Education. Teachers trained with him over the summer, and students are now putting their math concepts to work through programming the robots.

Students are not only improving their math scores, but they are improving their confidence and technical abilities as they work with the robots. The grant provided 28 ThinkPads and 28 small robots called Linkbots along with a white board in applied math classes.

In addition to understanding the practical applications for formulas, geometry, negative numbers and fractions, students are also enjoying the process. “They are learning to problem solve,” said Scott Fortkamp, an applied mathematics teacher at White Oak Middle School. . “They are learning to collaborate and to persevere and figure things out.”

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