Agent Cayley™ is a virtual reality iOS game that will deliver and assess the entire Algebra 1 curriculum through exciting game play.
About this project
What is Agent Cayley™?
Agent Cayley™ is, hopefully, the “killer math game app” of 2016.
Agent Cayley™, custom built for iPhone & Google Cardboard, will engage students in a virtual reality iOS app while delivering and assessing the entire Common Core Algebra 1 curriculum. Each episode consists of the player immersed in a virtual reality environment where s/he solves crimes using mathematics. It is based on Dr. Pollak’s belief that the application comes first, and the math comes later. Hence users play a LOT, and long before any math comes into the scene. Yet at the end of each episode, there will be measurable outcomes based on theCommon Core State Standards (CCSS) for Algebra 1. If Agent Cayley is built to completion, it will deliver, and assess the learner on, EVERY TOPIC COVERED BY THE ALGEBRA 1 COURSE.
Agent Cayley™ – Episode 1 is the first “unit” of this course and will teach students how to solve linear equations, how to solve systems of linear equations, how to perform matrix operations, and how to solve systems of linear equations using matrices. The context is that Agent Cayley is investigating a murder where the suspect leaves a series of clues in the form of secret codes. The codes get harder and harder to decipher, and as a result students must, in effect, solve linear equations to get the final clues to the mystery.
The idea of Agent Cayley…
The idea of Agent Cayley™ began over twenty years ago. I was a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University when I took an amazing course by Henry O. Pollak on teaching mathematics through applications. Dr. Pollak, a mathematician at Bell Laboratories before teaching at TC and working for PBS as a math consultant, was a strong believer in kids learning math by solving real-world problems. It was there that I learned how you could entice kids to work with “secret codes”, and only later gently guide them into equations and algebra afterwards. Dr. Pollak showed us how to do this for every element of the high school math sequence, from basic geometry through pre-calculus.
I have spent my entire working life in education. I graduated from Columbia Engineering in 1993 and immediately embarked on a 20-year career working with middle and high students, mostly teaching math. I loved what I did, and loved it more when kids got “tricked” into liking math despite their preconceived negative feelings about the subject. It is those “reluctant learners” for whom this game is aimed.
So in 2015 I spent a chunk of my own savings and hired Robert and Stephen Madsen at Synaptic Switch LLC to build the basic structure and 10+ minutes of game play, in hopes that kind folks like you would see my vision for Agent Cayley. Robert and Stephen have done an AMAZING JOB with Agent Cayley so far, and are on board to bring it to completion if this Kickstarter campaign is successful.
Why iPhone and Google Cardboard?
For the simple reason that approximately 2/3 of teens own a smartphone, and the vast majority of them are iPhones. And Google Cardboard is just plain awesome! With Google Cardboard, you turn your iPhone into your own VIRTUAL REALITY GAME with a pair of goggles that you can make at home or buy for less than $30. Google Cardboard was most recently featured byThe New York Times Magazine on November 8, 2015 by sending over a million subscribers a free Google Cardboard viewer. Google Cardboard is finally the platform needed to deploy virtual reality to the masses. As Wall Street Journal reporter Dan Gallagher said recently after attending the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, “…virtual reality is the hot new thing in tech.”
If, by some amazing show of support, we far surpass our fundraising goal to finish Episode 1, we will keep on going! There are nine planned episodes of Agent Cayley covering the Algebra 1 curriculum through quadratic equations and an introduction to functions and probability/statistics. The ninth episode has no new material but is rather a “final exam” where all elements of the curriculum will be assessed.
My promises to you, my supporters…
1) My promise to teachers is that it will never replace you. Agent Cayley is designed to capture those reluctant learners in your class, and get them to learn the concepts in Algebra 1 in a completely fresh new way. I also promise that there will be a “back end” to the Agent Cayley website where teachers can track their students’ progress through the game.
2) My promise to parents is that it will be worth your kids’ time. As a parent myself, I do not see “screen time” as the enemy, but rather “quality screen time” as the goal. We parents must embrace technology use by our kids, and provide them with opportunities to use technology as a force for good.
3) Most importantly, my promise to kids is that Agent Cayley will be unmeasurably fun and cool by its use of Google Cardboard on an iPhone. I have two teenage kids who, along with their able and willing friends, will be kid-testing this app at every stage of the way. They have ultimate veto power if something is stupid, boring, or just plain not worth their time!
The Agent Cayley Team
Thank you so much for your support!
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(“iPhone” and “Google Cardboard” are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. and Google Inc. respectively and are not affiliated with Agent Cayley™ or Mbondou LLC in any way)
Risks and challenges
Any mobile game app, particularly one that is aimed at the 12-16 age market AND is designed to help kids learn, is fraught with uncertainty. To me, the biggest challenge for Agent Cayley is for kids to like it. My biggest worry is that the game ends up with the same fate as thousands of other math computer games – on the scrap heap of school and home storage cabinets because kids don’t want to play it. Getting teens to like, and hopefully get hooked, on an electronic math game is the “holy grail” – the ultimate challenge. It is my hope and dream that we can do this!
Of course there are other risks – biggest of all is that Google Cardboard and iPhone get replaced by newer and better technologies in the next 12 months. It’s very possible. But by putting our chips with Apple and Google, it is our expectation that if things change, we can adapt to them quickly.