Anchored Instruction through Collaboration

The perceived issue the Jasper materials are responding to is a lack of engagement and mathematical understanding for learners when it comes to mathematical concepts. The purpose of the videos is to create learning opportunities that are anchored in meaningful and engaging technology contexts, using anchored instruction. Anchored instruction was “designed to overcome the problem of developing ‘inert knowledge’ – knowledge learned in school that cannot be retrieved when it is needed for another situation” (Zydney, Bathke & Hasselbring, 2014). The Jasper Project uses technology to motivate students to problem-solve as a team and solve relevant chronological problems within a story-line. The program motivates students to help them learn to think and reason about complex problems (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992). Using a constructivist approach, students are encouraged to construct their own understanding of mathematical concepts, while developing problem solving and critical thinking skills. I think this is a relevant problem in today’s classrooms, because students often don’t see or make the connection between curricular competencies and real-life scenarios. When students can make connections, it provides deeper learning opportunities for students to explore concepts, take risks, and test a variety of problem-solving strategies (Hickey, D., Moore, A., & Pellegrin, J, (2001). In my experience, students who are English Language Learners (ELL) struggle with math concepts that are solely print-based problem-solving activities. These videos provide opportunities for students to build upon concepts and work in a team, developing communication skills.

In one study, students who used the Jasper materials showed slightly larger gains on assessments (Hickey, D., Moore, A. & Pellegrin, J, (2001). With the advancements made in technology, updated versions of the Jasper Project could be extremely beneficial. Using current topics of interest for elementary learners, paired with apps accessed on iPads, could create deeper learning experiences. Students would have access to the video series, and could possibly share ideas and debate with other classes through Skype, similar to a Mystery Skype ( Taking this a step further, apps could offer virtual reality opportunities for students to be completely immersed in the problem their team faces, creating an active, rather than passive learning environment.

The contemporary videos that are available for math instruction from Khan Academy address the issue, but fall short because they lack the group collaborative effort provided by the Jasper Project. “The model presented by the Khan Academy proposes a flipped classroom where students take responsibility for the acquisition of key concepts at home and then in class essentially complete extension tasks and gauge understanding” (Lenihan, E., 2013). In inner-city classrooms, students are not able to work through concepts at home because of the lack of technology. The Jasper materials utilize classroom activities and time.


Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1992b). The Jasper series as an example of anchored instruction: Theory, program, description, and assessment data. Educational Psychologist, 27(3), 291-315.

Hickey, D. T., Moore, A. L. & Pellegrin, J.W. (2001). The motivational and academic consequences of elementary mathematics environments: Do constructivist innovations and reforms make a difference? American Educational Research Journal, 38(3), 611-652

Janet Mannheimer Zydney, Arne Bathke & Ted S. Hasselbring (2014) Finding the optimal guidance for enhancing anchored instruction, Interactive Learning Environments, 22:5, 668-683, DOI: 10.1080/10494820.2012.745436

Lenihan, E. (2013). A theatre for action: Adopting the khan academy in support of a classroom model in the MYP. The International Schools Journal, 32(2), 66.



  1. Hi Danielle,

    Great post. Thank you for pointing out the problem of availability of technology to implement contemporary videos available for math instruction. Many inner city schools (and schools in general) lack technology for students to engage in technology 1-1 either at school, or at home via a flipped classroom model. What I liked about the Jasper Series (though dates) was that students would be working in collaborative teams, and could share a digital resource. This would likely be a lot more “do-able” in schools where 1-1 is not available. This would address the technology piece, anchored instruction, and collaboration. Having students share technology is not such a bad idea – when an activity is structured purposely.

    I also liked your point about how our ELL learners would be given the opportunity to engage in mathematics in a different way than worksheets. Problem-solving can be extremely challenging for ELL learners due to the traditional text heavy format. A series such as Jasper would have students use listening skills and visual cues to help solve problems.

    Lots to think about!

    1. I agree. Collaboration paired with technology is “do-able” in the inner-city classroom, and often more effective because students need to share ideas and develop communication skills. I like the Jasper series, however I think that teachers are able to do something similar with the technology that’s available today. As you saw in my tweet today, my students worked on building parachutes to further connect aerodynamic drag to our force and motion unit. My ELL learners who have missed many curricular competencies due to the language barrier were able to visually learn through hands-on problem solving. They watched other students making parachutes, demonstrating Vygotsky’s social learning theory. Thanks for the comment.

  2. I agree that with ELL learners, comes language barriers in their everyday lives. Word problem worksheets don’t work very well. The only problem I see with the Jasper Series and ELL learners, is that they would be relying on just their listening skills and collaborative work skills. They will see the math problem printed on the screen, but what about subtitles throughout the video? Does the updated Jasper Series include this?

    1. That’s a great question. I would hope so. Even more supportive of our learners would be a Jasper Series geared for ELL learners.

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