Math, Abstraction, Play, Learning, and Embodiment

Erin Ottmar, PhD

Learning Sciences, Technologies, and Psychology

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Welcome to the MAPLE Lab at

This lab is directed by Professor Erin Ottmar in the Learning Sciences and Technologies Program and the Social Science and Policy Studies Department. We are located in Salisbury Laboratories in Room 133.

We use an interdisciplinary approach that integrates theories and methods from cognitive, developmental, and educational psychology, mathematics education, computer science, and the learning sciences.

Lab mission

Under the direction of Erin Ottmar, our team engages in various research projects all with the intent to improve the teaching and learning process. Teaching and learning mathematics is a highly complex social, exploratory, and creative process. The mission of the MAPLE Lab is to apply research-based embodied approaches to build intuitive and fluid math learning interfaces by making “math come alive” (Graspable Math, From Here to There!). We examine mathematical teaching and learning using multiple levels of analysis: qualitative observational research methods, behavioral assessments of cognitive, social, and emotional competencies in classrooms, quantitative multilevel methods, educational data mining, and implement interventions aimed to improve K-12 math teaching, learning, and engagement. We take the perspectives of perceptual learning and embodied cognition to design educational games in formal and informal learning contexts, and develop actionable knowledge for teachers and researchers to improve student learning.

We LOVE learning and thinking about how people learn and think about math. How can technology facilitate learning and engagement? How does mathematics knowledge develop over time? Why are so many people so afraid of math while others are so in love with it? Why do some people view math like a puzzle or game while others view them as confusing procedural rules and algorithms? What strategies do people use when they solve mathematics problems? Where do people get stuck? What are mathematical and contextual predictors of mathematics learning and achievement? What does good mathematics teaching look like? Why is teaching math so hard? What skills (other than math knowledge) are required to successfully teach, learn, and understand mathematics? These are just a few of the questions we try to answer in our research.


Congrats to Ji-Eun Lee!

Jie-Eun Lee received the 2020 AERA Best Paper Award for Instructional Technology! CONGRATULATIONS JI-EUN!

Congrats to Hannah Smith!

MS, Learning Sciences and Technologies

Hannah Smith successfully defended her Masters on May 8! We can't wait to celebrate in person at Graduation in the Fall! CONGRATULATIONS HANNAH!!!

Congrats to Dr. Dan Manzo!

PhD, Learning Sciences and Technologies

Dan Manzo successfully defended his dissertation on April 22! We can't wait to celebrate in person at Graduation in the Fall! CONGRATULATIONS DAN!!!

Our own Avery Harrison was featured in the Spring 2020 WPI Journal!

Congrats to Avery!