An interactive smart desk project, involving over 400 pupils, shows that collaborative learning increases both fluency and flexibility in mathematics. An interactive 'smart' desk can enable one to tackle math better than doing it on paper, according to Durham University researchers who have designed and tested the concept. Using multi-touch desks in the new classroom, under a three-year project, the children were able to work together in new ways to solve and answer questions and problems using inventive solutions, the journal "Learning and Instruction" reports.
Researchers found that 45 percent of students, aged between eight and 10 years, increased the number of unique mathematical expressions after using NumberNet, compared to 16 percent in the traditional paper-based activity, according to a Durham statement. Liz Burd, professor at the Durham School of Education, Durham University, who led the study, said: "Our aim was to encourage far higher levels of active student engagement, where knowledge is obtained by sharing, problem-solving and creating, rather than by passive listening.
"We found our tables encouraged students to collaborate more effectively. We were delighted to observe groups of students enhancing others' understanding of mathematical concepts. Such collaboration just did not happen when students used paper-based approaches." Researcher Emma Mercier Durham, said: "Cooperative learning works very well in the new classroom because the pupils interact and learn in a different way. The children really enjoy doing maths in this way and are always disappointed when you turn the desks off!"