1 August 2017
Summer learning helps kids stay on top of STEM school subjects
SYDNEY - This week, Australian start-up STEM Explorer™ launched a free new game to help children aged five to nine to stay on top of their school studies over the summer period. STEM Explorer: Summer Learning™ is a cutting-edge app teaching science, math and related subjects, and is tied to the Common Core State Standards.
The United States’ position as a global leader is due in part to the pioneering work of its scientists, engineers, and innovators. Maintaining that leadership will mean ensuring its youth are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to interact with the world, solve complex problems, and critically analyse information. These are skills students typically learn through studying STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, and math.
However, American students today are falling behind in STEM fields compared to their counterparts in other advanced industrial nations.[i] Contributing to the problem is summer learning loss, a phenomenon where students lose academic skills over the summer break. Summer learning loss has been shown to lead to significant gaps in achievement, employment, and college and career success, particularly between lower and higher income youth.[ii]
To help address this, the Sydney-based team behind STEM Explorer™ partnered with award-winning international educational games company 2and2 to create a product specifically targeted at minimizing summer learning loss; one that rewards effort and persistence and tailors the questions to each child. It features eight different games designed to increase engagement.
STEM Explorer: Summer Learning™ is powered by the Cogniss platform, a technology developed exclusively by 2and2. “We created a machine learning algorithm called Cognission Engine™ to optimize and deliver personalized content and feedback,” says 2and2 CEO Leon Young. “Partnering with the STEM Summer Learning™ team allows us to demonstrate its real-world value.”
STEM Explorer: Summer Learning’s chief evangelist Marko Njavro says they wanted to create a game that was fun and would help children on their return to school. “We know teachers spend an average of three weeks revising content when children return to school after summer vacation, and students report that math and science subjects are the most difficult to catch up on,” says Marko. “We wanted to have an app that can help limit learning loss, as well as give students a head start.”
Most games use a ‘drill and kill’ approach to deliver blocks of questions aligned to a specific category, such as multiplication, but STEM Explorer Summer Learning™ mixes up the questions in an approach designed to boost learning. The technique is called interleaving. Research shows it can have positive long-lasting effects, particularly for subjects like math.[iii]
Young explains that interleaving is just one component of the Cogniss platform. The technology is based on neuroplasticity: the brain's ability to adapt and change in response to new experiences. Other core features of the smart engine include its ability to ‘know’ when to serve more challenging questions based on the user providing faster and more accurate answers. “Tailoring the timing and types of questions to suit individual learners, and ensuring any feedback they get has a sound psychological basis all help to deepen understanding, foster engagement and maximize long-term knowledge retention,” says Young.
Game questions currently focus on the Grade 1 and Grade 2 curriculums, and will provide supplemental support for STEM subjects during the school year. “Our goal now is to further validate the benefits of playing STEM Explorer Summer Learning™ as well as look to how we best scale the software to encompass all elementary school stages,” adds Marko.
[i] Desilver, Drew (Pew Research Center, 2017, 22 February). The US is falling behind academically. This is why. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/15/u-s-students-internationally-math-science/
[ii] National Summer Learning Association (2016). Summer can set kids on the right – or wrong – course. http://summerlearning.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/SummerCanSetKidsOnTheRightOrWrongCourse.pdf
[iii] Pan, Steven C (Scientific American, 2015, 4 August). The Interleaving Effect: Mixing It Up Boosts Learning. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-interleaving-effect-mixing-it-up-boosts-learning/
Prior to the release of STEM Explorer Summer Learning™, the team launched a STEM game called STEM Explorer™ that validated the market need in Australia. STEM Explorer™ was one of 20 start-ups in the PwC’s 21st Century Minds (21CM) accelerator program designed to unearth, grow and scale Australia's best STEM education initiatives. STEM Explorer’s superiority comes from its game mechanics and personalized learning components. It also has a dashboard for teachers to aid lesson planning and an analytics display for parents.
Find out more about STEM Explorer Summer Learning™:
To arrange an interview with Marko, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +61 408 626 347.
Find out more about 2and2 and Cogniss:
To arrange an interview with Leon Young, Managing director of 2and2 and Cogniss, please email email@example.com or call 1300 883 974.
Facts and figures
- Employment in STEM occupations grew much faster than employment in non-STEM occupations over the last decade (24.4 percent versus 4.0 percent, respectively), and STEM occupations are projected to grow by 8.9 percent from 2014 to 2024, compared to 6.4 percent growth for non- STEM occupations.
- STEM workers command higher wages, earning 29 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts in 2015. This pay premium has increased since our previous report, which found a STEM wage advantage of 26 percent in 2010.
- Nearly three-quarters of STEM workers have at least a college degree, compared to just over one-third of non-STEM workers.
- STEM degree holders enjoy higher earnings, regardless of whether they work in STEM or non- STEM occupations. A STEM degree holder can expect an earnings premium of 12 percent over non-STEM degree holders, holding all other factors constant.
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce (2017, 30 March). STEM Jobs: 2017 Update. http://www.esa.doc.gov/reports/stem-jobs-2017-update
The loss of knowledge and educational skills during the summer months is cumulative over the course of a student's career and further widens the achievement gap between low- and upper-income students, according to a RAND Corporation study.
The study confirms that students who attend summer programs can disrupt the educational loss and do better in school than peers who do not attend the same programs.
Source: McCombs, Jennifer Sloan, Catherine H. Augustine, Heather L. Schwartz, Susan J. Bodilly, Brian McInnis, Dahlia S. Lichter and Amanda Brown Cross. Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children's Learning. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2011. https://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG1120.html. Also available in print form.