ARI-Lab is a research project aimed at studying how microworld-based systems, online communication systems and learning object technologies can impact on mathematics learning, and in particular on arithmetical problem solving and the introduction to algebra.
This project has led to the development of software systems which have been tested in a variety of different concrete classroom settings. Three teaching paths focused on a version of ARI-LAB software can be found in this site.
The ARI-Lab project has affected different research fields: mathematics education, educational technologies, cognitive science, Human-Computer Interaction, school integration of disabled students.
ARI-Lab has been a long-term research project carried out by CNR (Italian National Research Council) researchers working, first, at the Institute for Applied Mathematics (IMA), then at the Institute for Educational Technologies (ITD). During project development different progressively richer versions of the ARI-LAB system were designed and implemented.
The ARI-LAB system (CNR licence) is an educational multi-environment system based on microworlds and communication technology. It is aimed at arithmetical problem solving.
The first prototype of the ARI-LAB system was experimented with widely and exhaustively. The system was tested in different school situations and with different kinds of students (different school levels, normal students, deaf students, students who are considered low achievers in mathematics). All the experiments were developed over the long term. With one class, the system was used for almost the whole cycle of primary school (from the second to the fifth grade), with significant integration into the mathematics curriculum.
During all experiments, the teachers of the classes involved were present throughout and participated actively both in planning the teaching itineraries and in following the students’ work on the computer. Each experiment was accomplished in a real class situation and during normal class hours not in an “ad hoc” laboratory setting.
After this phase, the structure of the system was reviewed, taking into consideration results and hints coming from the experimentations. A new version of the system was designed and implemented under the Windows operating system. This enhanced version was tested in different classes too and in training courses for teachers.
>DIDAEL spa marketed it at the beginning of 2000.
The work and the research related to ARI-LAB then grew thanks to a project of the European Community:
ITALES project – Innovative Teaching and Learning Environments for Schools (IST-2000-26356). Within this EC project the latest versions of the ARI-LAB system were designed and implemented: ARI-LAB 2 and ARI@ITALES.
ARI-LAB 2 is an evolution of the ARI-LAB system with a completely re-designed interface, many changes in the functionalities offered, and with the addition of two new microworlds: one for approaching rational numbers, and one for introducing the algebraic language.
ARI@ITALES was designed and implemented to offer teachers tools for projecting and managing online classes. It allows users to access some of the interactive tools of ARI-LAB 2 through a common browser (Explorer).
ARI-LAB 2 is an open multi-environment system for developing skills to solve arithmetical problems for children of the primary and lower secondary school.
ARI-LAB 2 addresses two kinds of users: the teacher and the pupil. By interacting with ARI-LAB 2, the pupil can build his/her own solution to some arithmetical problems, by interacting with a structured and interconnected set of environments of different kinds.
These environments include:
- microworlds for representing problems
- an environment for building and describing problem solutions
- a communication environment through which a student can interact with his/her peers and/or the teacher by sending messages and solutions
- a database of solved problems.
Apart from the previous environments, the teacher has also at his/her disposal an environment for planning and customising the educational activity with his/her students: writing problem texts, constructing problem solutions, examining and commenting on the students’ work, configuring the system for every student of his/her class.
In ARI-LAB 2 a vocal synthesiser is integrated for developing and validating the basic mathematical skills (such as counting, coordination between the oral and written representation and in digits of a number, numerical equivalence, etc.). There are also some movies in Italian for the deaf-and-dumb to adapt the system to the specific demands of deaf children. The interface of ARI-LAB 2 is currently available in three languages of the European Community: Italian, English and Spanish.