We were all third graders once. Do you remember the chaos? We all remember walking in single file lines and sitting in the lunchroom with our friends. We remember assigned seats, the teachers we liked, and the teachers we didn’t. The one thing we seem to forget is how truly unorganized it actually was.
We were originally tasked with the problem of finding a way to increase the use of manipulatives (therefore, boosting third-grade comprehension of math concepts). Our first thoughts were to build a new, better manipulative. In order to gather information, though, we talked with Mr. D’Andrea, our district instructional coach. He gave us insight regarding the low PSSA scores at Willowdale Elementary School, and told us how manipulatives were meant to help; he also explained the struggle in getting teachers to use the manipulatives.
From here, we recognized we need experience in the classroom. We needed to see how the third grade Willowdale classrooms function, and we needed to talk to the teachers. One day, during our Student Design Lab class, we went to visit Ms. Bishop’s third-grade classroom. We were in awe of the love the students have for their teacher and how excited they were to do different activities. We noticed the things they didn’t like about class and the things they loved. We also observed the messes they made and the confusion they shared.
Then, after interviewing Ms. Bishop herself, we learned that organization of a third-grade classroom is much more difficult than she made it seem. The apparent disorganization that she had to deal with made it more difficult for her to use manipulatives. This struggle spoke to us as a group.
Our next step was defining a problem, our problem. We went the organization route with the problem we defined. Our problem was that the disorganization of Eureka manipulatives causes slow setup and breakdown times that lead to a lack of manipulative use. To solve this problem, we created Butterfly: an easy organizer for manipulatives in classrooms. Every aspect of our organizer has been perfectly measured to fit the manipulatives in the 3rd Grade Eureka Math Manipulative kits.
In creating Butterfly, we heard lots of feedback and worked very hard to straighten out any possible flaws with our solution. We measured the manipulatives, drew our prototype, and gathered the facts to pitch our most effective product targeted to solve the disorganization problem. In the future, we hope to see how our solution could possibly help teachers and students.