E. Demitriadou, A. Lanitis

Cyprus University of Technology (CYPRUS)
Primary school students often find it difficult to differentiate two dimensional and three-dimensional geometric shapes. Taking advantage of the ability of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) to visualize 3D objects, we evaluate the potential of VR and AR technologies for teaching the lesson of geometric solids to primary school children. To the best of our knowledge there are no previous cases in the literature describing a comparative evaluation of VR and AR technologies in education, and more specifically in the field of mathematics for primary school children.

An experimental evaluation was staged to test the following hypothesis:

Hypothesis 1: VR and AR applications make the teaching of mathematics more interactive and interesting and they also contribute to a more efficient learning and understanding of mathematical concepts.

Hypothesis 2: The use of VR applications is more effective when compared to AR applications for mathematics teaching activities.

For the needs of the experimental evaluation, we designed a lesson plan comprised of three activities: Classification of shapes into solid or plane shapes, identification of solid shapes appearing in a typical city environment, and classification of solid shapes. The lesson plan was implemented based on the traditional method that utilizes printed material, three related VR and three AR applications. The developed VR and AR applications for the current research do not require specialized equipment. For the AR applications, the users only need to use their mobile device or tablet and for VR applications they only need to use a mobile phone and low-cost virtual reality glasses. As part of the study 30 fourth, fifth and sixth class primary school students were divided equally into the control group who used the traditional teaching method, and the AR and VR groups who used AR and VR applications respectively. Participants were provided with questionnaires before (pre-test) and after the test (post-test) to measure factors such as user attention, presence, enjoyment, science knowledge, auditory knowledge, and visual knowledge.

According to the results, new technologies in education in the form of virtual and augmented reality improve interactivity and student interest in mathematics education, contributing to more efficient learning and understanding of mathematical concepts when compared to traditional teaching methods. No significant difference was observed between virtual and augmented reality technologies with regards to the efficiency of the methods that contribute to the learning of mathematics, suggesting that both virtual and augmented reality display similar potential for educational activities in Mathematics. Based on statistical evidence Hypothesis 1 was accepted and Hypothesis 2 was rejected.

The current research is one of the first attempts ever to compare VR and AR technologies for Mathematics teaching activities in primary school. The findings of our research can provide valuable feedback to educators and developers who plan to use or develop VR or AR technologies for educational activities. Given that these days VR and AR applications, like the ones used in the experimental evaluation, do not require highly specialized equipment, the introduction of AR and VR based activities both for in-class and extra curriculum activities provide a promising way for more efficient Mathematics training activities.