Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Boxzee - Flexible Computation Game

All this month I'll be posting games from the Fall 2023 GAMES seminar at GVSU. This senior capstone was begun by Char Beckmann. See many of the games in this YouTube playlist. Many of the games completed in my seminar are in this playlist. In the seminar, we play lots of games and math games, the future teachers make a first video to promote a class math game that already exists, we develop a group game (a monster-themed middle school Desmos escape room and Math Heads, a number mystery game), and they develop a game of their own.

Jordan Burnham selected Close to Zero, and integer addition game for her first video. Handout and original blogpost.

Jordan's original game Boxzee crosses one of my favorite classroom games, Number Boxes by Jenna Laib, with the classic Yahtzee. What follows is Jordan's explanation of the game and thoughts on why play games in math class.


When I was first brainstorming games, I had absolutely no idea what kind of game I wanted to make. It wasn’t until one day when I was sitting on my bedroom floor that the starting ideas of Boxzee came to me.

Originally I imagined the game to have more moving parts. I first had players each being dealt 4 cards. From there they would roll a dice twice to determine a specific operation they would be using (odds = subtract, evens = add). Then after finding out those operations you would choose 3 cards from your hand to find a largest total value for that specific round. I found that this became a little confusing and players wouldn’t necessarily be able to truly “compete” if all of their rounds operations were different than each other. If one player only rolled odd values then they would be predetermined to loose solely because the other players would have a better chance of having larger numbers if they rolled more even values. 

Moving on from here, I decided to instead come up with the number box sets. Rather than using the dice to determine operations I decided this was a more structured way that players could still affect the total value by the cards they put in without having so many moving parts. I first came up with the idea to have four different rounds. The players would both have 4 cards in their hands and needed 3 to fill into the number box sets. I also decided that they would both fill in the top box row, then move downward. After playing this a couple of times I realized it could be very common to tie. So then I chose to create a number box set that would be the final round and would use all of the cards in the players hand. I liked this much more. 

Then to incorporate more of a feel of Yahtzee, I decided that players should be able to substitute their cards into any of the top 4 number box sets of their choice in any order. This gives them more of a chance to use higher cards and lower cards when they have them for specific rows that those cards would be more valuable for each round. 

Some final touches were made after play testing with Professor Golden and my classmates. These included allowing players to chance any of the cards they have in their hand. I really enjoyed this change because it gives players more risk opportunities. The queen card was introduced as being a wild card during this time as well. I appreciated this idea because I feel like it allows players to more strategic and intentional about where they substitute certain card values into the number boxes. Finally I made a coupe of variations. I came originally came up with the addition and subtraction version of the game. I then decided to toy around with the idea of multiplication and division and made the multiplication and fractions versions.

I think that teachers should play this with their students because it makes basic operations more exciting. I think that allowing students to have so much control over placing values into expressions and solving these is something they will enjoy. I also believe that it allows students to grasp where they may rather place a larger value versus a smaller value. Since the goal is to have the largest total value for each number box set, it will look different for each set. Placing a 9 in the same value that you place a 1 or a 0 has much different affects. 

I believe that this game can be adapted and used for so many reasons. The framework of the rules and rounds is something that creates such a great skeleton to then use with multiple content areas. I have thought about creating a Binomial Boxzee and think that this would be a great next step as well.

Why Play Math Games?

Math can sometimes be a very intimidating subject area for some students. Because of this, I believe that it is important to keep the classroom environment exciting and reassuring that every student has the ability to be a mathematician no matter what level of skills they may think they have. To do this, incorporating games into the classroom can be very beneficial.

Math games are a great resource for teachers to use to introduce and practice content. When playing games in the classroom in allows students to learn content in a more relaxed environment. This allows students to feel less pressure when making mistakes. This is important because students will be more likely to try and continue trying even after making mistakes which will help them master content areas. Similarly, playing these games allows students to build their strategic and problem solving skills. They want to perform their best and win, so they are able to develop strategies that can help them succeed throughout the game.

I also believe math games are beneficial in the classroom because they can be interactive. This allows students to also help each other in teaching the math skills. By not only performing the skills needed for the game, but also using their skills to help teach their classmates they develop a deeper understanding for the content. 

Finally, playing math games allow students to build a love of math. When students are engaged and having fun playing these games, this is when they will be doing the most learning. Exposing students to games that are centered around math subjects, they will be able to see that math is more than just what they may be learning to compute in class.

Now seeing some of the benefits associated with math games, it is also important to identify what makes a good game. One of the biggest things that I believe makes a good math game is having minimal time constraints. When students are practicing their math skills within a certain amount of time some may start to feel discouraged if they are not as fast as their other classmates. With this in mind, choosing games that give students the same opportunity to be successful at completing the game whether they are fast thinkers or need some extra time is very important. 

I also believe that a good math game allows for catch up. This means that even if a student is “down” in a game or is behind, there are aspects of the game that allow the players to quickly catch up and still have an opportunity to win. Since some students may not succeed right away, offering an opportunity for them to catch up and still have a chance to win this makes the game more fun for all players. This also makes students more likely to want to play and in turn allows them to practice and learn without the fear of losing. 

In conclusion, math games being incorporated into the classroom that I urge many educators to try. Not only to practice content, but also to help build up students’ love for the subject and confidence in their own skills.

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