Our daily lives depend on math in one way or another. To excel in this topic, a great deal of concentration, patience, and practice are needed. Research shows math, however, can be difficult and intimidating for many learners [1][2]. As a result, a lot of learners avoid math or have trouble keeping up with the curriculum [3]. This is one of the many reasons Usable Math was created. Usable Math is a free online math tutor for US grades 3-6, designed to support math skill development and problem-solving among young kids. As an open educational resource, Usable Math uses Google Slides as the medium of math instructional delivery while stimulating a collaborative math learning climate in the classroom.

There are hundreds of complex and intelligent online math tutors on the web, designed for learners from any grade. Each one of them intends to make math learning engaging, interactive, and fun. Although I do not speak from a competitiveness angle, there are hardly any online math tutors that come close to the functionality of Usable Math - its ability to create an innate collaborative learning environment that is solely learner-centered.

At the UMass Amherst College of Education where Usable Math development happens, we design new math modules weekly. During the process, we keep in mind several key learner-centered teaching aspects such as the learning objective of every specific math word problem, who the target audience is, the kind of pedagogical and “scaffolding” hint design and placement approach [5]. In the meeting room, led by Prof. Maloy and Prof. Edwards, one will quickly become aware that it is crucial that each and every single math problem is reviewed at least 5 times in order to make it kid-friendly, pedagogically relevant, but mainly to foster a climate for collaborative math problem-solving.

Creating a collaborative climate is one of the many purposefully-designed learning strategies of Usable Math. We tune it to create a learning environment that promotes interactions among student peers - in ways that each of their “pockets” of knowledge is nurtured resulting in active engagement in the learning process. As the emphasis is on the learner engagement, and not on the technological bells and whistles, Usable Math allows for a more finely channeled approach for collaborative math learning by focusing on creating a human-to-human connection, instead of fully relying on plugged activities such as pairing with a digital computing device, as demonstrated in [4].

This article is a part of Usable Math series. Visit Usable Math to learn more: https://usablemath.org/

### References

[1] M. H. Ashcraft, “Math Anxiety: Personal, Educational, and Cognitive Consequences,” *Current Directions in Psychological Science*, vol. 11, no. 5, pp. 181–185, Oct. 2002, doi: 10.1111/1467-8721.00196.

[2] Y. Mutlu, “Math Anxiety in Students With and Without Math Learning Difficulties,” *lnternational Electronic Journal of Elementary Education*, vol. 11, no. 5, pp. 471–475, Jun. 2019, doi: 10.26822/iejee.2019553343.

[3] M. Dennis, D. B. Berch, and M. M. M. Mazzocco, “Mathematical learning disabilities in special populations: Phenotypic variation and cross-disorder comparisons,” *Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews*, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 80–89, 2009, doi: 10.1002/ddrr.54.

[4] S. Jiang and G. K. W. Wong, “Are Children More Motivated with Plugged or Unplugged Approach to Computational Thinking?,” in *Proceedings of the 49th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education*, Feb. 2018. Accessed: Feb. 26, 2023. [Online]. Available: http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/3159450.3162270

[5] J. Anghileri, “Scaffolding practices that enhance mathematics learning,” *Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education*, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 33–52, Jun. 2006, doi: 10.1007/s10857-006-9005-9.