Archive for December, 2012

Problems and possible fixes

So after one trimester of using the Pirates game and the Spies game in my College Algebra and Algebra 2 classes, respectively, I can see some problems that need to be addressed.

Not enough time to use the game

Feeling the curriculum crush that probably all high school math teachers feel, it would seem like many days or even weeks would go by without the students doing anything with their avatars. A leader board and leveling up has some positive effect but it needs the heft of the game to make the new skills and items important. Fix: smaller but more frequent game episodes, particularly at the beginning of the class. While students are working on warmup problems, they can roll dice to see what random event happens while they are questing. Plus more students get involved at the same time with moving the game forward. In a typical RPG like Dungeons & Dragons, a party might be three to five players and a game manager. In a typical classroom that would mean a lot of students just watching while a few make decisions and roll dice.

Some students disinterested in the game

If a student doesn’t think the game is interesting or fun, then the game becomes demotivating. Some students can question whether there’s a point to the game and can even break the “magic circle” for others, jeopardizing the point of using the game in the math classroom. Fix: in addition to shorter episodes of play, more tightly integrate the play scenario with the math “story problems.” For instance, in the pirates game the students were sailing around Jamaica and were presented with navigation problems. Solving the Pythagorean Theorem or trigonometry problems gave their characters in the game an advantage. As much as possible, blur the line between game and class work.

Some students unsure of what’s going on or the value of skills or items

In the spy game in particular, I got a bit carried away with creating a multi-layered mystery with multiple clues and characters. I think that the “chaotic story telling” technique could have worked better without such a complicated storyline. Fix: Edit and use smaller missions that use a wider range of skills and items. This ties in to the fixes above. Also, I made a website with documents (like character sheets) online. The skills list now has tool tips that give more information on what a skill can be used for. As a bonus point opportunity, I had students pick a skill and describe it in a paragraph.

We will relaunch this week and put students back to level one. Students got invested in their characters but for purposes of the class (getting a separate grade for each term), I have to start everyone at the same place. More later on the new beginning.


December 9, 2012 at 4:40 pm Leave a comment