Week 1: Diving into Puppetry and Research

Hi! Welcome to our first weekly blog! Let’s dive into what we’ve been working on during the first week!

Project Kick-off!

Before we get into it, here’s a little background on our project! We are Team Puppatmatics; a project team tasked by Lou Kardas, Director of the Center of Arts and Education at West Liberty University to create a tool to aid 4th-5th graders at West Liberty’s puppet making workshop and indirectly teach them the mathematical concepts. Our team has 6 members; Eva Chang (producer), Jasmine Chen (programmer), Lawrence Luo (artist) , Randi Ouyang (artist), Samantha Trimboli (producer) and Sarah Willie (programmer). Ruth Comley is our project instructor at ETC, who will be guiding us throughout the whole semester.

This Wednesday, we had our first instructor meeting with Ruth where we clarified our role/responsibilities as well a going through the project semester structure.


As Ruth advised on how to get our things started, we started digging into some research about our topics. The project now seemed to be much broader than we imagined. So, in order to get a profound understanding, we separated into groups and look into different field of research.

Past projects (Samantha & Eva)

Given our client’s extensive collaboration with ETC over the years, Samantha and Eva focused on delving into past projects, namely Colorize and Wandermath. This research aimed to see the client’s expectations based on prior experiences.

  • The Colorize team created 4 activities that explore color mixing with light using prototyped devices; they made a light strip, color wheel, shadow puppet show, and whiteboard.
  • The key takeaways from Colorize were that kids need a free-play mode, they like analogue more than digital, and are responsive to varying difficulty if there is an easy entry to try again.
  • Wandermath created an AR app that displayed math problems on a designated floor area. Kids could walk around to help them with the problems.
  • The key takeaways from Wandermath were that we have to really consider limited access to technology when designing for schools and children.
The history of puppetry (Randi & Lawrence)

Recognizing the significance of puppetry in our project, Randi and Lawrence dedicated their research to understanding the differences between various puppet forms.

  • Shadow puppets will probably be the medium for this project because they are easy to make and versatile.
  • Hand puppets are more restrictive and marionette puppets are too complex to make.
  • Marionette puppets are relatively hard to make and control.
4th-5th grade math education in West Virginia (Sarah & Jasmine)

Given that our project incorporates mathematical concepts for 4th and 5th graders, Sarah and Jasmine researched the specific curriculum for these grades in West Virginia.

  • 4th-5th math is more complicated than we imagined.
  • They focus on unit conversion, fractions, pre-algebraic word problems, greatest common factors, area, perimeter, two-digit multiplication, coordinates, etc.
  • They also introduce the notion of projection and the relationship between the 2D and 3D spaces.

These research certainly gave us some image in our head to start working on the brainstorming.


After doing ample research, we started thinking of ideas that blends puppets and math, seeking different ways to combine them. These are some of the ideas we came up with.

  1. Having the students create shadow puppets and then use them on a story adventure quest where they have to traverse through a projected map.
  2. We could have a hole in the wall activity where the students have to change the positions of the puppets limbs to fit them through the hole.
  3. We want there to be 3 activities that show off one or more of these components; free-play, collaboration, and individual skill assessment.

Recognizing the need to test our concepts firsthand, we spent time to crafting shadow puppets and experimenting with them under projector light. During this exploration, we discovered playful interactions between puppets, shadows, and mathematical concepts. Inspired by these findings, we did a level design game with storytelling elements, showcasing the potential of integrating shadow puppets into math lessons.

Composition Box

To prepare for the upcoming workshop, our team also spent time making a composition box, where we listed out our inspiration and ideas for the project. Turned out that this really helped us do a great brainstorming together.

Next Steps:

During Week 2, we will participating in various workshops, preparing for 1/4s presentations and meeting with out client for the first time!

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