Assistant Professor Andres Bustamante is leading a local initiative to introduce academically engaging games in recreational settings. His latest venture is "Fraction Ball" at El Sol Science & Arts Academy in Santa Ana.
For Fraction Ball, a basketball court is painted to emphasize fraction and decimal learning by allowing children to take shots that are worth a fraction of a point. The traditional 3-point arc is converted into a 1-point arc and smaller arcs closer to the basket represent 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 point shots on one end of the court and 1/3 and 2/3 point shots on the opposite end. The numbers are also represented as fractions on one side of the court and decimals on the other side so that children can see that 0.75 and 3/4 have the same value and practice converting back and forth between fractions and decimals. Along the side of the court a number line with both fraction and decimal representations helps students keep track of their score.
At El Sol, Bustamante and his team - Associate Professors Lindsey Richland and Drew Bailey, UCI alumnus Dr. Kreshnik Begolli, and graduate student Daniela Alvarez-Vargas collaborating with El Sol’s executive director Monique Daviss, curriculum specialist Jenny Zavala, and teachers Lourdes Farag, Guadalupe Cruz, Ivet Gonzalez, and Kodor Huq - are targeting 5th and 6th graders with a few structured games involving a shooter, a rebounder, and a counter. During the games the shooter takes a shot, the rebounder calls out the value of the shot, and the counter moves down the number line that amount providing an embodied and playful math learning experience. The games have different objectives like making as many points as possible in two-minutes or racing to an exact number (e.g., 3.25) without over-shooting the goal. Bustamante expects that students and teachers will come up with their own creative ideas for engaging with the numbers on the basketball court and that other grades will join in. The team is implementing an experimental study to evaluate the effects of playing Fraction Ball on student’s mathematics ability and language use on the basketball court compared to a control condition.
Above photos by Kenny Lewis
Bustamante, whose research interests include early childhood STEM education and community-based interventions, has introduced similar projects during his time in the Infant & Child Lab at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At that location, he worked on a series of projects titled “Playful Learning Landscapes” that encouraged youth and adults in public spaces like parks, libraries, bus-stops, and grocery stores, to engage in playful educational activities. For example, he led the development of “Parkopolis” a life-size STEM learning board game that was piloted at the Please Touch Children’s Museum in West Philadelphia and is ultimately intended for community parks. In Parkopolis, children roll fraction dice to advance around the game board and engage in research based STEM-learning activities.
Photos by Sahar Coston-Hardy
Bustamante is excited about this latest venture and reports, "Fraction Ball is being received with excitement and enthusiasm from students and teachers. This was a true team effort with our partners at El Sol, and I’m thrilled to see it come to life."