04/06/2024

FGV EMAp Student Develops Games to Aid in Mathematics Education

Tulio Koneçny’s Project Integrates Teacher Training Courses in Ceará and Espírito Santo

Attracting students' attention in the classroom has become an increasingly challenging task for teachers. In the digital age, with young people connected to their cell phones from an early age, traditional teaching methods often prove ineffective and outdated.

A methodology gaining traction in Brazilian schools is gamification, which uses game elements in educational activities to make learning more engaging and effective.

Instead of relying solely on lectures or written materials, teachers can incorporate card or board games, both competitively and collaboratively, to solve problems and challenges. This approach promotes a more dynamic, interactive, and motivating learning experience for students.

GAMES + TEACHING = SUCCESS

At the School of Applied Mathematics at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV EMAp), Tulio Koneçny from Espírito Santo has become an exemplary success story in the field. At just 23 years old, he has already graduated from the Applied Mathematics course at the Rio de Janeiro-based institution, where he is currently pursuing a Master’s in Mathematical Modeling. He also runs a website called "Mathematics Is For Everyone" with the specific goal of combining mathematics knowledge with fun.

When users enter the platform, they encounter various types of games developed by Tulio himself. The creative journey begins with the identification of a math problem observed in the classroom by a teacher.

Next comes the game’s conception and artwork sketching phase, followed by mechanics balancing, culminating in a test version. This model is applied to a group that tests the games and helps the creator refine them through feedback and suggestions. From there, Tulio is also responsible for adjustments and execution of details.

Once ready, the game is made available for users to download, print, and suggest modifications they deem necessary. "The idea of the site is to keep everything totally open. Anyone who wants to download it can play. If they want to modify it, they can. The idea is to create this environment to produce more games," explains the FGV EMAp master’s student.

Tulio chose not to create virtual games. For him, the world of tangible, material games—board and card games—is an excellent way to teach mathematics, and the project idea has been with him since adolescence.

"I started this when I was in high school, but it became a more substantial project when I came to FGV. I develop educational games related to mathematics but with a board game approach. These include cards, boards, and game rules, and today my research aims to create an experimental model to evaluate whether these games are effective in teaching," explains the mathematician from Cariacica, Espírito Santo.

PROJECT CREATOR CAME FROM FGV CDMC

Tulio was selected by the ‘Talent Selection’ project of the Center for the Development of Mathematics and Sciences (FGV CDMC). This FGV initiative, created in 2017, aims to identify young talents with a history of winning medals in national olympiads in public schools across Brazil. The institution then offers them the opportunity to take undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Rio de Janeiro.

The School recognized Tulio's potential while he was still linked to the Mathematics Laboratory of the Federal Institute of Education, Science, and Technology of Espírito Santo (IFES) in Cariacica.

"When I joined the Laboratory in high school, the proposal was to bring public school students from the region to IFES. We saw that some teaching processes were not very well developed or clear to the students. So, I saw an opportunity to get involved with game development, as it’s something fun that they enjoy. Additionally, having this educational aspect could further facilitate the idea," he recounts.

TEACHER TRAINING

Today, his project has evolved into courses for teacher training centers in the Southeast and Northeast. In Ceará, the initiative is online to gather a larger audience during the presentation. In Espírito Santo, Tulio conducts the practice in person to 'exchange ideas' with the teachers.

"It has been a great experience. Online, I can reach more people. In one training session, for example, we gathered 90 people. In-person, there’s the benefit of explaining directly and having the teachers get hands-on, providing suggestions on how to improve the games. It’s been a great exchange, with many people contacting us to suggest the creation of new games or changes to existing ones," celebrates the creator of 'Mathematics Is For Everyone'.

If playing was once forbidden in the classroom, today it’s a welcomed initiative to capture students' interest. The FGV EMAp student hopes that, in the future, board games will have the same cultural recognition that books have always had in the school environment.

"I hope they start using these games extensively to stimulate teaching. Every time they were tested, the games were well received by the students. We now aim to include not only games on the site but also thematic exercise lists and supplementary materials, not just for fun but to keep the focus on the core mathematical problem. In my master’s, I want to create an experimental model to validate these games. Hopefully, at some point, they will be treated as conventional classroom materials, just like a book. That students can have a moment in class to play, have fun, and learn," he concludes.

TALENT SELECTION

The Center for the Development of Mathematics and Sciences was created by FGV in 2017 to identify young talents in public schools across the country, offering them the opportunity to undertake undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the institution in Rio de Janeiro.

Students are invited to take the FGV entrance exam in one of the undergraduate courses offered by the institution: Applied Mathematics, Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, Economics, Business Administration, Social Sciences, Law, and Digital Communication.

In six years of the initiative, approximately 420 students with excellent performance and medals in Mathematics competitions and Olympiads have been recognized.

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