Information technology in classrooms
Photo by John Eyett at Dunkirk Primary School, Nottingham.
This webpage describes some educational software developed by Richard
Phillips around 1990 at the Shell Centre for Mathematical Education, University
of Nottingham. The materials are no longer available for purchase. The purpose
of this page is to continue to make the ideas available.
It is hard to imagine a more awkward way of controlling a computer than standing
in front of it, jumping up and down on a mat. But if you have watched children
doing it, or even better, tried it yourself, you can see the point right away
- it's fun. Imagine that there are two mats on the floor and the computer screen
looks like this -
Gingerly you tread on the left mat and counter changes from 43 to 48. You try a small jump and it becomes 53. Braver now, you attempt several jumps on the other mat and the number starts coming down...
It says "Can you make 33...?". With a mixture of reasoning and trial-and-error you get the counter to its target.
Pressure mats connected to a computer are a valuable teaching aid for infants and juniors. They have a range of uses but are particularly valuable for number work.
Here is some on the software which can be used with mats.
- STEPPER is a simple counting program where number counters on the screen can be advanced by jumping on the mats. It is the basis of a wide range of activities involving counting, large numbers, number patterns, negative numbers, elementary ideas of division and group problem solving.
- JUMPER measures how good you are at jumping by timing how long you stay in the air. You can also use the program to time other activities.
- SOUNDS is a simple program that generates different musical and sound effects by standing on a mat.
- MIRROR lets you watch your movements from mat to mat copied on the computer screen. You can record what you do, replay it, and try to copy it.
- TARGET invites you to make a target number by jumping on the two mats - one mat adds and the other subtracts.
- CYCLES is a similar program to STEPPER except that it shows cyclical patterns of numbers and letters.
- BALLOON is a simple microworld for very young children to explore. It involves inflating balloons by jumping on the mats. If both balloons are large enough they will lift a basket up into the air. But if you make a balloon too large - it bursts.
The BALLOON program and timing an obstacle course with JUMPER.
From 1989 to 1994 Panthera sold a pack to support this work called Pressure
mat programs but after selling the 500th copy it is now out of print. The
booklet that accompanied the pressure mat packs may be down loaded as a
pdf file (about 1.2MB).
Here are some articles which describe this work -
Phillips, R. J. (1989). Infants' number work with pressure mats: the computer
as a provider of concrete experiences? Microscope 26, 17-20.
Phillips, R.J. (1989). Jumping at mathematics. Micromath 5 (2), 37-39.
Phillips, R.J. (1991). Jumping the sum. Strategies: Maths & Problem Solving
3-13 1 (4), 24-25.
These photos show pressure mat activities at the Royal Society's
Pop Maths Roadshow which toured the UK.
Pressure mat software was also used for several years in a permanent exhibit
in the Green's Mill Science Centre in Nottingham.
This webpage was published in 1996 on the Shell Centre for Mathematical Education
website. It was removed from the University of Nottingham server in 2007. To continue
to make it available Richard Phillips has republished with minor editing on his
own website. Updated 9 June 2007.