mPower: TVO’s new digital math tool helps students STEAM toward success

In our day-to-day life, and in our 21st-century, globally connected world, math matters. Strong math skills are crucial to helping young learners succeed in school. Math literacy is also key to the jobs of the future and creating a skilled workforce, which will ultimately help strengthen Ontario’s economy and enable the province to compete on a global scale.

Yet math can trigger anxiety for kids, parents and teachers – it can be hard to learn, and complex to teach. There’s also been a declining trend in math scores in Ontario and a concerted effort to reverse this. In this context, TVO saw an opportunity to harness our expertise at the intersection of curriculum, pedagogy and digital media to create a tool to support student success, and help instill a solid foundation in STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) from the onset of a child’s education in kindergarten.

To address the need for math support, TVO created mPower, a fun and innovative online game-based resource that builds problem-solving, critical thinking and math skills for learners in kindergarten to Grade 6. As the popularity of online gaming among young Canadians continues to grow, it was a natural fit to leverage digital game-based learning to tap into kids’ innate love of games so that learning math is fun.

To keep kids engaged while they learn, mPower also employs gamification principles. These include progressively moving players up through levels of difficulty while “scaffolding” the learning; giving kids the freedom to make mistakes along the road to finding the answers; providing feedback; and balancing the skills and challenges in a game so that players enjoy their experience and want to play again.

In 2015-2016, TVO built mPower from the ground up within TVO’s new product management framework. A product manager led a cross-functional, multidisciplinary team to conceptualize, prototype, develop and continually iterate and improve mPower. Its development is rooted in TVO’s Educational Blueprint, a rigorous instructional design process that guides the creation of all of TVO’s high-quality educational content.

The team worked in partnership with Ontario educators, who guided the development of mPower from its inception, giving TVO critical insight on students’ learning needs and the math challenges they are facing. Throughout the process, educators and students themselves helped shape mPower’s iterations through valuable feedback, play-testing and in-school piloting.

This was a transformative method of working for TVO, and provided important insights on how to leverage a wide range of skills, nurture innovation and creativity, and strengthen the organization’s ability to be nimble in its practices. mPower is a first for TVO in terms of scale and complexity – from the organizational efforts that led to its creation, to the resulting product: a comprehensive, high-quality digital classroom resource that serves both teachers and students throughout elementary school.

Follow the mPower story and learn more.

This post is an edited version of an article that was originally published as part of TVO’s 2015-16 Annual Report.