Students from throughout the Dallas area enjoyed exploring the lives of animals through the lens of mathematics. Mathfinder Camp was free to participants thanks to generous funding provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Thanksgiving week camp was a joint effort between SMU Simmons, talkSTEM, and the Dallas Zoo.
More than 60 children aged 8-12 attended the educational camp where they got the chance to explore an exciting new math app currently in development. The Mathfinder app, a collaborative effort between SMU Simmons and talkSTEM, is designed to make math fun while sparking curiosity and creativity and instilling a lifelong love for learning in children. The mobile app uses Augmented Reality (AR) technology for use on iPads. Students used the app to watch videos that showed them how to see math in the animals and habitats at the zoo. The AR feature allowed them to insert holograms over their camera feed to see new things in the zoo surroundings.
SMU’s Candace Walkington, Ph.D.is grateful for the collaborative effort in working for the common goal of fostering a love for math and science among children. She also appreciates the data gathered to help further the success of the app. ”It was amazing to see the kids at the zoo using their ‘math lens’ to look at the zoo exhibits and generate their own observations and questions. The kids also loved sharing their mathematical discoveries with each other, their instructors, and even their parents at home.”
Koshi Dhingra, founder of talkSTEM, said, “We were thrilled to partner with SMU and the Dallas Zoo that allowed us to bring this unique educational opportunity to young minds in our community. We believe the camp showed children that math is not only essential but also a fascinating lens through which they can view all the places they go, including the zoo!”
Simmons Dean Stephanie Knight is extremely pleased with all aspects of the Mathfinder camp. “There is nothing better than when our Simmons research is taken into the community to directly serve youngsters by heightening their interest and understanding of math, reading and technology. The fact that it is a collaborative effort with talkSTEM, and the Dallas Zoo makes it even more exceptional. I applaud Dr. Walkington and her team for this excellent work and look forward to the impact the app will have when completed.”
The Mathfinder team plans to run additional camps in the Spring and Summer of 2024. The Girl Scouts of North Texas will participate in that camp at the Dallas Arboretum. The team’s current set of studies is looking at the impact that AR tools in the Mathfinder app have on learning. The long-term goal is to create an app that could be used anywhere to ask and answer mathematical questions about the world around you.