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Our Research

Our published research and writings on Mancala and other games.

Research: News

Young Children's Authentic Inquiry Practices

By David Phelps

David's 3 paper dissertation on children's authentic inquiry practices he identified among our students in Mancala Club.
Abstract: This dissertation is comprised of three interlinked studies investigating young children’s authentic inquiry practices. The first article provides a literature synthesis of over two hundred and fifty in-depth cases of K-6 facilitated authentic inquiry learning environments. These cases reveal the wide-ranging authentic inquiry practices that are a vital feature of the inquiry process including the practices young learners use to conduct research, organize their workload, motivate each other, collaborate together, innovate upon practices, and promote equitable learning conditions. The second article investigates how young learners leverage each of the above practices to advance their collective inquiry on a novel and complex project in an afterschool learning environment called Mancala Club. The third article, an extension of the second, empirically examines the moment-to-moment interactional moves that young learners used to re-mediate relations of relations of power, affect, social positioning, and spatial orientation in Mancala Club in order to promote more equitable learning conditions for themselves. Taken together, these articles demonstrate that the process of authentic inquiry is holistic and contentious, yet within-the-grasp of young learners. These findings push back on dominant models of what counts as an inquiry practice and what counts as competency, especially for young children.

The History of Mancala in the Garden Room

By John Benner
Exchange July/August 2004,
John describes learning opportunities he discovered with his 3-5 yr old students as they played Mancala. He describes children using the mancala board as an open-ended math material, a board game to support logical and mathematical thinking, and as a site for social and emotional learning opportunities.

This is your News article. It’s a great place to highlight press coverage, newsworthy stories, industry updates or useful resources for visitors. Add a short summary, include links to relevant content and choose a great photo or video for extra engagement!

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Our Other Research

What we research when we're not playing Mancala...

Research: News

Data Inquiry for Equitable Collaboration: The Case of Neighborhood House's Data Carousel

By Dawn Williams and John Benner
Research Brief Published by UW Equitable Parent Schools Collaboration Team.
Dawn and John share research findings on an innovative practice by Neighborhood House's Head Start Program that brought parents, teachers and administrators together to review program performance data and plan next steps.

Research-Practice Partnership to Support Social–
Emotional Learning in Schools

Herrenkohl, T. I., Herrenkohl, L. R., Proulx, M. A., Benner, J., & Calvo, N. (2016). Research-Practice Partnership to Support Social–Emotional Learning in Schools. SAGE Publications, Ltd.

This case describes a body of work structured around a research-practice partnership that began in 2013 to support the implementation and evaluation of a universal social– emotional learning curriculum in the Bellevue (Washington) School District. Research activities are organized around a Design-Based Implementation Research framework, which focuses on evaluating while also engineering the implementation of programs by collecting and using data. Design-Based Implementation Research is suited to refining and testing innovative strategies to enhance teaching and learning within school and agency contexts and is an extension of classroom-based design research that emphasizes collaborative and sustained engagement to enhance systematic inquiry and quality improvement. 

by John Benner and Douglas Judge

AERA General Meeting , 2020

This paper reports on the first stage of a 3 pronged effort of a school district in the Pacific Northwest to make district wide social-emotional learning instruction more culturally responsive. The first stage of this project was a co-design of a family SEL education night with a Latinx community education organization, district staff, and a university researcher. A first, less responsive and reflective parent education event is documented along with the design process to create a family education night that centered family funds of knowledge of SEL, expressed as
“valores humanos.”

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Research that inspires us

Research work on Mancala and related topics that inspires our ongoing work.

Research: News

Using Mancala in the Mathematics Classroom

Alex de Voogt, Lisa Rougetet and Nathan Epstein

The Mathematics Teacher

Vol. 112, No. 1 (September 2018), pp. 14-21 (8 pages)

de Voogt, Rougetet and Epstein show how high school students used a simplified mancala game to explore combinatorics, discrete mathematics and search functions. We loved this so much we offered it as a challenge in our Mancala Club at The Robinson Center for Young Scholars.

Lessons Learned from a Community Math Project: Ethnomathematical Games & Opportunities for Teacher Leadership

Yow, J., Morton, C., & Cook, D. (2013). Lessons Learned from a Community Math Project: Ethnomathematical Games & Opportunities for Teacher Leadership. Journal of Mathematics and Culture, 7(1).

This article feels like a kindred sprit to Mancala Club!!
The authors describe the 
Minority Access to Revolutionary Instructional Extensions (MATRIX)  supplemental elementary mathematics curriculum based on six games coupled with a focus on parental involvement and advocacy. One of these games is Oware! These authors took the work a step further and incorporated parent and teacher leadership development into their project!

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