Aplusix - Helping the children of the world to learn algebra: a research project that has been commercialised successfully
Of all the subjects taught in schools, mathematics is arguably the most challenging to engage with. Algebra, one branch of mathematics, illustrates this perfectly, presenting many challenges through its abstract concepts of variables, definition of polynomials and factorisation, naming but a few.
This case study, developed with Grenoble 1 University and CNRS in Grenoble, gives an overview of the Algebra Learning Assistant, Aplusix. ‘It can motivate even those students who dislike mathematics and Algebra’, claims Jean Francois-Nicaud, the project’s Scientific Manger. ‘It also enables teachers to monitor how their students are doing, taking prescriptive corrective action as and when needed’.
What makes learning algebra with Aplusix so different?
Many of the software learning programmes on the market at the moment are merely tools which mathematics students can use, but without offering the required feedback. Aplusix provides a fully-integrated user interface that incorporates pedagogical functionality. The project team is made up of engineers, scientists and business managers based at Floralis, which is an affiliate of Grenoble 1 University.
Students become autonomous, teachers get more time to teach students that need help
Aplusix has been created with both the student and teacher in mind and its main functionalities include an intuitive editor of algebraic expressions, verification of calculations, scores, commands and a map of exercises. Very importantly, the teacher is able to factor-in parameters for learning, set problems and exercises for students, as well as keep control of administrative applications. ‘Our research shows that using Aplusix, students will gain confidence, work more autonomously and most importantly learn’, stresses Dr Nicaud. ‘Not only that, but we have found that teachers’ time is saved as students’ gain that autonomy. Using the software they can monitor what their students are doing, diagnose any problems, and rectify them.
What makes this project so different?
‘Firstly, it is a project that is already resulted in a commercialised product. We are, however, conducting ongoing research, to enable us to continually enhance the product. Recently this commitment has enabled us to incorporate a new display for problems, a new editor for creating exercises and problems to solve. We continue to examine how Aplusix can be adapted to suit different culturally specific contexts across countries. For example, in some countries, the curriculum demands that algebraic trees are included. We are also looking at how students better understand the structure of algebraic expressions. One exciting aspect of this is how the equivalence of expressions will correspond to identical graphical representations.
What should policy makers know about Aplusix?
Mathematics is surely a huge contributor to achievement of Europe’s goals in becoming a more competitive, knowledge driven society.
Aplusix demonstrates how sophisticated software can be developed which incorporates sound pedagogical practices. It supports teachers through enabling them to help their own students more efficiently and effectively. Those students that are forging ahead are able to push their boundaries further, whilst those that previously had no access to Aplusix, who may have struggled with mathematics, have shown demonstrable motivation towards learning. The teachers, being more in tune with the needs of their students, are able to adapt accordingly. Applications that motivate mathematics learners must represent an important step forward to creating a better-educated society.
Who is on the Aplusix team?
This case study can only be presented thanks to the various project members involved, drawing together experts from different disciplines:
Computer scientists – Jean-François Nicaud, Denis Bouhineau, Christophe Viudez, Nicolas André, MeTAH, Grenoble, France
Didactician – Hamid Chaachoua, Jana Trgalova, Marie-Caroline Croset, MeTAH, Grenoble, France