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Expedition Atlantis


It’s the year 2023 and Atlantis has been discovered deep in the ocean, off of the coast of Africa. A team of elite scientists and engineers have been sent to investigate the underwater ruins, and you’re one of them! Use your skills to to maneuver the teams underwater vehicles in this expedition to Atlantis!

This is a great GAME that will teach kids the math behind robot movement.

Learn More

Why use Expedition Atlantis?

img_expedition1Expedition Atlantis presents mobile robot math problems in a highly scaffolded and contextualized manner. The game uses a mythical legend, underwater robotics exploration, and a game-like quest to motivate students to use math rather than “guess and check” their way through robot programming. The game is designed so that students learn to play the game in the game and includes ingame tutorials.

The game intentionally removes the notion of programming allowing kids to focus on learning mathematical strategies without having to worry about the nuances of programming. Expedition Atlantis’ rewards students for mathematical solutions, and if the teachers uses the tools provided in this teacher guide, is designed to generalize students’ proportional reasoning skills by the end of the game.

So why should you use Expedition Atlantis?

1. Proportional problems are embedded everywhere

• Widely applicable

• Students with math IEPs especially need proportional reasoning skills

2. Expedition Atlantis provides students with the big ideas needed to become proficient proportional thinkers

• High student engagement through underwater robotics game

• Research-driven

• Mechanistic approach

• Proportional thinking, not just proportional methods

a. Repeated, contextualized practice

b. Unified approach

3. Aligns with the Common Core Standards

4. Immediate teacher and student feedback

5. Differentiation for high- and low-performing students (manual and automatic)

Expedition Atlantis is designed to be a fun, educational tool to teach and reinforce proportional relationships. When complete, it will be accompanied with a full Teacher’s Guide that provides information on its use in the classroom, ties into mathematical standards, and other valuable information. It’s also available completely for free during our Beta and Feedback period, so download it today!

History of Expedition Atlantis

Expedition Atlantis, a Calculated Deep Sea Underwater Adventure – Using a Game to Teach Robot Math

Expedition Atlantis takes lessons learned during the Robot Algebra research project and integrated them into a game that uses the motivational effects of the Legend of Atlantis, robots, and a graphically stimulating underwater environment to teach proportional reasoning.  Students are placed in the role of underwater explorer as they attempt to solve the riddle of Atlantis. Explorers learn how to play the game “in the game” and their intuitive understanding of proportional reasoning is challenged and strengthened as they mathematically move their robot through the underwater puzzle.

The game is currently available as a free download here:


img_expedition1The game targets proportional reasoning which is taught in 4th and 5th grade level mathematics classes, but has shown to be engaging to older students also. The game allows teachers to offer differentiated instruction by offering the math problems at three different levels: all problems use whole numbers, all problems use simple rational numbers (i.e. 1.5, 2.5), or all problems use any form of decimals.

The game begins with an unexpected crash of an underwater explorer vehicle on its way to Atlantis. Luckily the robot lifepod within the vehicle wasn’t damaged. Students are challenged to mathematically move their robot to Atlantis and then pickup supplies being dropped from the mother ship. In order to make the game more mathematically rich we developed a Robot Transformer which enables students to outfit their robots with different diameter wheels and different robot chassis.

The wheel diameters and chassis sizes were specifically designed to enhance the mathematical challenges integrated into the game.  In order to ensure that students actually use all robot types different parts of the game require students to change robots.

The Research behind Expedition Atlantis

The Robot Algebra Project is an ongoing research and development project conducted by Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy (CMU) and the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC). The team proposes to develop tools for informal education which when implemented effectively will significantly increase middle school age students’ algebraic reasoning skills.

Our target math concept is teaching proportional reasoning, and we used a rolling robot’s straight and turning movements to introduce students to measurement, scale, rate, and conversion of Units math concepts.

Over the course of the eight year project, the team has observed many teachers that say that they were using robotics to teach mathematics, but we found that few actually foregrounded the robot math in ways that were effective and many teachers avoided talking about mathematics at all. We are learning that in order for teachers to effectively use robotics to teach robot math that they need to foreground the math, talk about it, and measure it before they begin to teach students how to program their robots. We’ve observed that when teachers tried to teach both concepts, the robot math and the robot programming, at the same time that many students were confused and we were not able to measure significant learning gains. This project developed multiple strategies designed to enable teachers to foreground the mathematics in their robotics classrooms and they can be found here:

1. Abstraction BridgesRobot Algebra in Research Section

2. Robot in Motion Cognitive Curriculum ExampleResearch Overview

3. Expedition Atlantis, Calculated Deep Sea Underwater AdventureCS2N Overview

4. Robot Virtual World Math ToolsVideo

The team has given numerous presentations and written papers on “Teaching Robot Math” and they can be reviewed at:

Research Papers

Alfieri, L., Higashi, R., Shoop, R., Schunn, C.D., (2015, February). Case studies of a robot-based game to shape interests and hone proportional reasoning skills. International Journal of STEM Education. [Paper (PDF)]

Project Responsibilities

CMU was responsible for designing the units and the support materials, the LRDC was responsible for testing and evaluation, the team worked together to develop strategies to improve the product.

The Robot in Motion (RIM) Cognitive Tutored Curriculum


The full curriculum is hosted online at This was our teams first shot at developing a comprehensive solution to address student and teacher needs.

The curriculum consisted of three units that contained concepts that became progressively more difficult; the units used a robotics context and taught students about measuring straight distances and angles, proportional distances and proportional turns, and proportional rates. The units used a hybrid approach that involved a combination of Model Eliciting Activities and a cognitive tutor to guide students.

This approach proved promising, and we learned a lot about pacing and requiring teachers to foreground the mathematics, but because it was difficult to load onto school computers and the cognitive tutor was Flash dependent and the development team wanted to make sure that their work was compatible with iPads, tables, and phones we chose to use the Unity Game Development platform.

Note: This particular research for Robots in Motion as ended.

Teachers’s Guide

The Teacher’s Guide contains is a comprehensive guide that takes a teacher through lesson plans to use Expedition Atlantis, as well as connections to common core standards, printables, and the game mechanics. Download it now and use it to teach your class with Expedition Atlantis!

Expedition Atlantis Teacher’s Guide


Information Powerpoint (Offline)



A collection of images of Expedition Atlantis


We’d love to hear your feedback!

We appreciate any feedback you have about Expedition Atlantis. You can give us feedback through our survey:

Expedition Atlantis Survey


© 2018 Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy. All rights reserved.