Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Find It!

The call: a game for 5th graders just starting with fraction multiplication.

I look at my games. Fraction version of the Product Game... great fun, but more for practice than introduction. The crazy Ant Man game ... fun, good for calculator use, but also dividing fractions, so probably not time for that. Hmph.

Answer the question
(this was the first one)
Get it right to get a chance to
shoot past the goalie.
I look around on the web. Googled fraction multiplication game and got a lot of really awful drill "games." Glgkh - they left an awful taste. Some are obviously just quick flash mass production, but there are a couple that people really put time into looks and animation. For a quiz set to 8-bit music.

So, I'm on my own. Often with introduction time I try to think about representation. One of the things to love about fractions are all the many representations.  I think the discrete models are underused, so I thought about about students claiming fractions of a common pot (similar to the GeoGebra percent game I posted recently) - but it was difficult to figure out how to keep to intuitive numbers and overcome the disproportionate effect of going first. Also, I had trouble thinking of a game context that would get students to see it as a fraction of a fraction instead of a fraction of a whole number.

Then I thought about the area model. I imagined carving up a rectangle, having kids carve up rectangles. Scoring a total... connecting two points... then I had a connection. Cutting down bit by bit, it felt like searching for something. I tried a 12x12 grid, and my first pass at a mechanic worked pretty well: rolling a die to get halves, thirds, fourths. I thought of a context - searching for a lost hiker. Too scary if you've been lost? Finding a lost pet... maybe. It was a little too direct. Is it a competition? It was starting to feel like Battleship (a fine game), and that was good. I tried finding multiple objects; 2, 3, 4... and 4 was right. Oh! They could come up with the context - and that would give them the opportunity to add rules of their own. That's worth a try!

Here's the handout on Google docs: Find It!

I launched the game with my own context:
They managed to find all three, before... well before nothing. I was pleasantly surprised by how engaged they were just trying to find the rings. Like spontaneous applause when someone found one. (Playing with the whole class, I have them pass the die to someone who's ready of the other gender. Usually works.) Afterwards, I shared how maybe I needed more rules. Or the Mandarin's searching also. Or if you roll two 5's the Mandarin finds a ring. Or...

It was clear this was going to work because there was immediately a crowd of students trying to tell me their context, Minecraft, aliens, how it fit into the story she's writing about two wolves who turn into humans. It was exciting. They experimented with more than 3 objects and asked me why I had chosen three.

The wolfgirls.

Quite complex. This was played on two boards,
with interaction between the heroes and villains.

The minecraft game.
This had hazards as well as the goal.

The zombie game, which also had a hazard.
You had three lives, and had to find the zombie solution
before you lost all the people in your party.

The playing went well also. I was impressed by students ability to divide regions equally, and the many ways they found to do it. They started inventing their own terminology for how they were doing it, like the strips or plus method for dividing into four.  They used horizontal and vertical divides, and one group experimented with non rectangular regions. One group played like Battleship, competing to find all three before the other team did.

In feedback, everyone gave the game a thumbs up (mostly) or so-so. (Rare to have one that no one dislikes.) They liked the Battleship connection, the feeling of searching and the multiple objects to find. They were very excited to tell about their context and rules variations.

Game Evaluation
  1. Goal(s) - good - experience with representation, dividing up rectangular pieces into equal parts. Plus a context for future questions and rephrasing.
  2. Structure - works well.
  3. Strategy - puzzle like. Choice in which region to divide up with which fraction. Choices for where you hide the objects. Not the strongest element of the game, though.
  4. Interaction - good and so-so. One person/team being the mechanic for revealing spots and checking the other team's work on dividing was good mathematically. But Battleship isn't strong on player interaction.
  5. Surprise - die roll, so okay.
  6. Catch-Up ... depends on the variation. It's a bit methodical doing the search, but there's no time element in the basic version. The chance to get lucky with a search or a roll will help.
  7. Inertia - works for this. Students were anxious to play more.
  8. Rules - toughest element is the dividing up equally. Once you've got that idea, rest is simple.
  9. Context - here's the winner. Students being able to set their own context was very engaging for a vast majority.

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