April 21, 2021

Deeper Learning in Science to Accelerate Math and ELA Learning

Dr. Holly Pope

Part 1 of a 3-Part Series

The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted school for most of us. Finally, we can take a breath and start thinking about recovery. Educators are primarily concerned with ensuring students have a strong basis for math and ELA after so much disruption. Fortunately, the American Rescue Plan also focuses on supporting schools in making up for the ‘learning loss’ from the last 12+ months.

In all fairness, children did make progress despite the pandemic; and there's emerging evidence that learning was actually quite significant this year, but not equitable based on where the best support structures existed.

While we at Tyto Online spend most of our time talking about authentic, powerful science experiences, we want to spend some time here on a different approach. One way to help accelerate students learning in math and English Language Arts (ELA) is through deeper learning in science!

Why Use Science to Accelerate Math and ELA (or to address 'Learning Loss')?

Researchers have found that students who learned science through a project-based, performance assessment course designed for deeper three-dimensional learning showed increased science learning. But even more promising, deeper learning in science has been shown to also improve math and ELA outcomes. Students who used the three dimensional NGSS curriculum in that study outperformed their peers with other curricula on a standardized math and ELA test. Also, English Language (EL) learners displayed improved English Language development compared to their EL peers who did not use the curriculum.

Not only did students' science understanding increase as a result of deeper learning,  it improved their math and ELA understanding as well!

With deeper learning, students master academic content by developing critical thinking, collaboration, and problem solving. This type of learning is more impactful and forms deeper neural connections for a strong foundation for future learning.

If deeper learning “refers to the understanding and use of complex content knowledge as it is applied to new contexts and situations,” then science presents a new context to apply math and ELA knowledge. Therefore, Tyto Online provides an engaging context for applying math and ELA.

Deeper Learning in Tyto Online

Tyto Online is designed for deeper, three-dimensional learning as described in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and The National Research Council’s Science Framework for K-12 Science Education. The Science and Engineering Practices, and Crosscutting Concepts of the NGSS rely heavily on math and ELA applications in science.

For example, in Tyto Online, players read dialogue with characters and conduct research tasks by reading informational texts to gain an understanding of a phenomenon. They also collect and analyze quantitative and qualitative data to draw conclusions, engage in scientific argumentation, and solve problems.

More Benefits to Using Tyto Online

Engagement. Tyto Online’s immersive game experience creates interest and motivation for students to engage in science. Gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry, and a majority of Americans play video games. Chances are, your students are gamers. Applying math and ELA skills by playing a video game is the ultimate engagement tool. Tyto Online was created by people who not only understand the importance of math and ELA in science, but understand what makes video games fun and engaging as well.  

Culturally Relevant/Responsive Contexts. From the first moment the players log onto Tyto Online, they are immersed in a rich, sci-fi game world where the Earth has become uninhabitable and they’ve been relocated to an alien planet.  They personalize their avatars using a variety of skin tones, hair styles, and body shapes. Then they are given scientific tasks to address real-world issues such as a food shortage and a local epidemic. Tyto Online’s Storylines use real-world phenomena to anchor three-dimensional science learning. These contexts provide a purpose for students to apply their math and ELA skills while learning science.


In the next two articles in this series, we’ll dive into the Common Core State Standards and NGSS to illustrate how Tyto Online supports math and ELA learning -- and ideas about how you can use the game as a starting point for even deeper math and ELA learning!

Read the next article: Science Can Accelerate Math Learning.


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