As curriculum writer-editors at Wowzers, our primary goal is making the content we write beneficial to students. One type of content that we create is lessons, and one aspect we strive for when writing lessons is to make each lesson adaptive to students performance. We feel it is beneficial to give each student direct and specific feedback, extra explanation, and problems of varying difficulty.
So, what do we mean by adaptive lessons, or, for that matter, adaptive learning environment?
The computer program behind our lessons has the ability to gauge the degree of ease or difficulty with which a student grasps particular concepts. Based on that information, the program then either accelerates through or emphasizes the lesson content accordingly. Students continually interact with the lesson, but not every student needs the same feedback for each problem. This is where we come in.
We want each student to quickly understand the reason for his/her mistake. It is not sufficient that a student only knows that they did something wrong, because they will likely make that same mistake again or will simply remain stuck on that problem. Suppose a student is struggling to find the quotient and remainder of a long division problem. There are several mistakes a student can make: incorrect quotient, incorrect remainder, multiplication error, subtraction error, etc. Each type of mistake coincides with a deficiency in either a mathematical process or the comprehension of the underlying concept. To address each such deficiency, we write up nudges (specific hints), that, based on their specific incorrect response, help nudge the student towards understanding.
We employ the same approach in writing practice problems, which is what we proceed to after we finish creating the lesson. Here, we think about a lot of tactics. Do we want the student to regroup at every step in the first few initial problems, or should we save that until the last problem? When should we use a 0 in a place value position to trip the students up? The adaptive engine then matches the ability of the student with the type and difficulty of the problem. Our task is to make that process be more than just going over every angle of the concept - we try to make solving problems fun.