Using virtual reality for learning geometry concepts

In recent years, various advancements have been made in education through the integration of technology in schools [1]. Virtual reality (VR) in particular has the potential to revolutionise the learning process.  Various studies have explored the potential of the technology in the field, researching how it could be incorporated into the learning context and used effectively.

The focus of this study was to utilise VR to create a learning tool for geometry, specifically regarding the related concepts of 3D geometry in the curriculum, such as the calculation of surface areas and volumes of 3D shapes. Through the use of the Oculus Quest 2 VR [2] headset and the development tools available from Unity3D [3], a VR application was developed with the objective of assisting students in understanding some of the most challenging geometry concepts in MATSEC ‘O’ Level mathematics. 

Prior to undertaking the development of the application, teachers working in the field were requested (through interviews) to share their views on the challenges students tended to face when learning geometry topics, and on the approaches that could help students overcome any difficulties in learning these topics. Furthermore, the teachers’ views on VR technology were assessed in order to gain a better understanding of how this technology could be integrated and used effectively in schools. The findings of the initial interviews, together with the insight obtained through the background literature research, formed the basis for a set of requirements for the intended application.

The application sought to address a number of the various issues, by including features that would allow users to understand and visualise the concepts of the shapes more thoroughly. These features included: the manipulation and control of the shape using the headset’s controllers; the ability to identify and disassemble shapes into simple components or another shape entirely; and the ability to apply the necessary formulae on shapes of different parameters selected by the user.

The application was developed using a prototyping approach: Each version of the prototype was presented to the teachers to evaluate whether the application would meet the needs of the students, and for the teachers to provide feedback on any changes required. When the application reached an acceptable level, students were asked to solve mathematical questions with the aid of the application. The set questions were intended to coincide with the learning objectives in the official curriculum. Throughout the session, the application was also used to collect observations on the respective students’’ performance and comprehension of the concepts. At the end of each session, the participating students were asked to complete a questionnaire to express their thoughts on the application.  The teachers were also asked to provide final feedback, based on their own personal observations.

Once the relevant information was compiled, the effectiveness of this approach was duly assessed. The results of the study were compared with previous research to validate the system’s applicability to this context, and to further explore the potential of using this technology in schools. 

Figure 1. NeoTrie VR: an example of an application to facilitate learning geometry

Student: Isaac Borg
Supervisor: Dr Michel Camilleri