Published on 26 Aug 2020

Safe Distancing through Mathematics: the SORBET Project

With the Covid-19 pandemic, safe distancing measures have been put in place worldwide. In order to impress upon students the importance of safe distancing, Dr Kenneth Y T Lim—Research Scientist at the Office of Education Research—and team worked with Dr Leong Swee Ling, Master Teacher from the Academy of Singapore Teachers, and teachers from four secondary schools in Singapore to develop the Socially Responsible Behaviour through Embodied Thinking (SORBET) project.

The SORBET project makes use of an open-source virtual environment to create an immersive augmented reality experience. The aim of the project is to help students understand the spatial concepts involved in the spread of a (virtual) virus and safe distancing. This is done using embodied cognition, the theory that our thinking is influenced by in-body experiences, which allows students to understand the concept of safe distancing more easily than graphs or charts detailing the spread of the virus—which requires more abstract thinking.

The spread of the virus in the virtual environment is based on probability. Each interaction in the virtual environment is logged, thus charting the spread of the virus. Students are then able to see the direct correlation between their actions and the consequences incurred, without the time lag (incubation period) that occurs outside of the virtual environment and from there, good safe distancing habits can be formed.

For more details on the SORBET project, please watch this video: 

As schools in Singapore have reopened, and good safe distancing habits amongst students are more important than ever, Dr Lim and team have begun to bring this project into classrooms. For example, on 29 July 2020, students from Kranji Secondary have already experienced one such session.


Students in Kranji Secondary going through the SORBET Project simulation

While this project is rooted in Mathematics and mathematical probabilities, Dr Lim hopes to take the approach of the SORBET project and encourage teachers to use it in a variety of subjects across disciplines, such as Geography, Science, and Character & Citizenship Education.

Thus far, their efforts have been recognised at the Immersive Learning Research Network Conference 2020, where the SORBET project was featured during the project showcase. The SORBET project will also be featured during the 10th annual symposium of the Mobiles for Education Alliance on 14-16 September 2020.