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Week 10 Computer-based vs. computer-delivered (March 19-25)

This is a follow-up to the Digital Storytelling task from Week 7:

People who teach with computers distinguish computer-based and computer-delivered math. Computer-based math includes interactive models, programming, games and any other media that draws upon the ability of computers to compute. Computer-delivered math includes texts, pictures, videos and other media shared and used via computers.

Of course, all computer-based math is also computer-delivered. But not all computer-delivered math is computer-based, the way the term is defined. 

GapMinder, the interactive model about social issues in the world, is an example of computer-based math: A TED video about GapMinder that I linked in Week 7 is merely computer-delivered.  

Another example: a multiple-choice online math quiz is considered computer-delivered math. Even if the quiz is wrapped as a computer game where kids need to shoot down monsters with right answers, it's still computer-delivered. The reason is that the kids are not using the power of the computer to do math during the interaction.


  1. Find an example of computer-based activity for measurement or number sense. 
  2. Explain why you think the activity is computer-based and not just computer-delivered.

Task Discussion

  • Carolyn   March 27, 2012, 12:41 p.m.

    I have talked about this math game before, but I have come across it again in my fieldwork for Arcadia. The math activity "First in Math" is something I saw again in a 5th grade classroom this past week and find it to be computer based. The activity goes on all throughout the school year and has students compete against each other and other schools for "gold stars" and "points." I am not sure of the reward at the end, but I do know there is one. I believe First in Math is computer based because although some of the games could be done without a computer using man-made cards and what not, for th e most part these activities require a computer. For example the one activity I saw a student doing was a suduko like game where he had to find patterns and ways to make the square "work." Instead of using numbers like Suduko, this game used shapes and colors. The computer would check each time and let you know if you got the pattern right. Each time the game became more difficult until accomplishing the final task. Again I believe this is a computer based activity but am not completely sure. 

  • Maria Droujkova   March 27, 2012, 1:23 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Carolyn   March 27, 2012, 12:41 p.m.

    Carolyn, I think your doubts come from the fact that the computer seems necessary for the task management, but not neccessarily for the math content involved in the task. The computer manages difficulty levels, gives feedback on particular games and keeps track of stars and points. This definitely helps to learn. But we need to look closely at individual tasks to see if students use computer capabilities such as graphing, algebra solvers, or data visualization in the context of tasks. It's the same distinction as in Keisha's example. What do you think?

  • This comment was deleted.
  • Maria Droujkova   March 28, 2012, 1:47 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Anonym   March 26, 2012, 6:05 p.m.

    Computer-based mathematics happens when students "significantly" (and that's the hard part!) use some capabilities of a computer to do their mathematics. Here is an example from my last math club, since it's about multiplication. I invited some 8-9 year old kids to play with spreadsheets. Chris wanted to program multiplication table by threes (3, 6, 9, 12...) He put 3 in the cell A1, and wrote =A1*3 in the cell A2, which gave him the value of 3*3=9. It used the calculating ability of the software, so far, to produce some math Chris did not even expect to happen. He figured out why quickly, though. He dragged the corner of A2 cell down and sat there in AWE as numbers grew, well, exponentially. The computer gesture "iterate the formula for every next cell" is where computer math - in this case, spreadsheet programming - comes into play. Chris moved from exploring multiplication to exploring exponents by using computer math. Here is my screencast reproducing his little computer-based adventure:

    Does it make sense? This category of "computer-based math" is not well-defined yet. Your thoughts and questions will help with defining it for everybody. Math educators just started working on the definition this Fall, actually, though of course similar ideas appeared before. 

  • Keisha   March 25, 2012, 11:49 p.m.

    The computer math game I found is 'Write the numbers in words". I think it's computer based because you are being timed to answer a certain number of problems. You can only continue to the next problem if you answer the previous problem correctly.

  • Maria Droujkova   March 26, 2012, 8:15 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Keisha   March 25, 2012, 11:49 p.m.

    Keisha, is a very good example of the further distinction we will need to make. Is it MATHEMATICS that is computer-based, or is it MANAGEMENT (of the learning process) that is computer-based? Computers are good for both purposes. 

    In this example, and many other applets I should add, the child does not use the computer for math computations, math graphing, modeling, or algebraic manipulation. The child uses the computer to manage exercises, but all the math is done by the child outside of the applet (in the case of this particular applet, in the child's head - recalling names of numbers).

    Again, both management tools and content tools are important for learning. Thank you for an example that illustrates the difference.

  • Carolyn Lesser   March 25, 2012, 2:41 p.m.


    1.       I chose a measurement game off the PBS website. It has a bunch of great games that include any type of measurement you could think of. The particular game I chose was Bike Route. You have to figure out what the fastest way is to get to each point on a grid map. This is a computer based activity because it provides possible moves for each point you are at and keeps track of how many moves you have left as you cross the map.

  • Kathy Cianciola   March 22, 2012, 1:12 p.m.

    Computer-based math

    For an educational activity involving computer-based math, "Ice Breaker" by Nitrome was the first thing that came to mind. In "Ice Breaker" you use virtual manipulatives in a game format.  I will try to explain it, but I'm also going to post the link so that everyone can try it out for themselves.  I like the idea that you are doing so much math in this game without even realizing it. 

    In order to pass each level, you must get the vikings safely into their ship. The first challenge is to figure out how to get the viking, who is encased in ice, into the viking ship. By cutting the ice at the proper angle and to the correct size you can achieve this result.  Another challenge involves getting the viking safely down a very steep, treacherous ice slope, and safely into his ship.  All of  these activities involve analyzing the direction, and the gravitational pull (which is simulated quite effectively). It also involves calculation of lengths, diameters, shapes and timing.  It's very educational, the music is great and I like the fact that you're saving people instead of blowing them up or shooting them


    Computer delivered math  

    Here is an example of a computer-delivered math activity.  It's a basic math practice, multiplication drill, where you have to type the correct answer into the little box provided, in order to move on to the next problem...not much of a reward!  In this example the computer is merely delivering math problems to be calculated.  These same problems could actually be done on a worksheet just as easily.  (No computer required.)

  • Laura Haeberle   March 20, 2012, 7:24 p.m.

    At first, I didn't really know the difference between computer-based and computer-delivered math. However, upon doing a bit of research, I realized that I experienced both throughout my education. One really interesting program that I found was on a website called "Adaptive Curriculum." One of the online programs they offer works with the surface area of shapes.

    I think this type of program would be beneficial because it let's the students personalize their learning experience. Students could mess around with the numbers and dimensions, changing what they want and seeing how things still come back to the same formula. This program allows you to adjust the size of the shapes and the specific measurements. It provides an image of whatever shape you've created, and provides the surface area of different sections, essentially breaking down the formula for area. Something like this would be very beneficial for a visual learner or a hands-on learner who works from testing things out.

    This is more computer-based math rather than computer-delivered math. In this case, the computer is calculating the aspects of area, and demonstrating the concepts in an engaging manner. Moreover, this is not the type of project that could be done as quickly or as easily without using a computer. The computer instantly gives you the dimensions and the changes in area, depending on what you alter. This differs from computer-delivered math because the computer is a core part of the equation, and not just the medium for delivering knowledge.

  • SandyG   March 20, 2012, 7:14 p.m.

    I found this computer activity.  I believe it to be a computer based activity based on our defnition because it is interactive. The student must input an answer to continue with the activity.  I could also see a student using a ruler, or like I did, a finger, against the screen to measure the various lines and shapes. The program will determine (or compute) if the answer is right or wrong.