Friday, January 5, 2024

Coordistroy - Classroom Graphing 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 from her seminar 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 this year), and they develop a game of their own.

Kacy Jeffries chose Number Boxes from Jenna Laib for her first video. See Jenna's blogpost for it here. This game was really influential to the seminar this year. Corrina Campau made a high school/college focused video for it, and Jordan Burnham made a game built on that structure, Boxzee.

Kacy's original game is a spin on Battleship that incorporates some shapes and better game play rules. (IMHO) What follows is her story of the game, and why she feels like we should play games in math class.

Coordistroy Development

Before thinking of this game, I went through a bunch of trial and errors with games that I could potentially come up with. I knew I wanted to do something with upper grade levels since I couldn’t think of a lot of games that had to do with the upper grades. Additionally, I wanted to create a game that was related to a well-known game that many students would probably already know how to play. This way, they could implement the same strategies they used with that game into my game.

My first game thoughts had to do with geometry, statistics, addition, etc. However, after playing Battleship with a friend, I knew for certain what I wanted to do. So, I found a small coordinate plane online and decided to try my first attempt on my game: Shape Escape. My first thoughts were that there would be little shape pieces in which students can practice translating on a coordinate plane if that’s how they chose to use their turn. However, I quickly realized that unfortunately it wouldn’t work the way I wanted it to. My class and I then came up with the idea of students drawing shapes on the coordinate plane rather than getting pieces and keeping track of hits/misses with a pencil/pen. This seemed to work a lot better and be a lot more fun with my classmates! Finally, I created the fun scenario of aliens taking over the world to make it more intriguing for the target 6th grade audience. And from there, Coordistroy was born. 

Teachers should be interested in using my game in the classroom because it’s a fun and entertaining way to get students thinking about the coordinate plane. Students must be able to read the coordinate plane, understand how to read coordinates as (x,y), working with area, height, and width on the coordinate plane, and knowing the difference between points in different quadrants. All of these reasons are why I chose 6th grade as the target audience: there are quite a few 6th grade standards revolving around all of these skills with the coordinate plane. Another reason why teachers may be interested is because it could take up however much time needed! It can be used as an activity (taking around 20-30 minutes to find all five shapes) or even just used as filler time (taking around 5-10 minutes to find one or two shapes)! It’s perfect for any classroom where students can play one-on-one or even two-on-two. No matter how it’s used, there’s no denying the immense amount of important practice that students will be involved in with the coordinate plane!

After playing this game, students will be more comfortable with the coordinate plane. They will be able to read coordinates, be able to find points after given coordinates, develop shapes with certain elements, and be more excited about working with the coordinate plane! Teachers can always refer back to this game if they find their students having a hard time later on. However this will be nothing but beneficial to students! 

Why Play Games in Math Class?

It may not be thought that having fun in math class is possible. However, if you think that, you’re dead wrong! Even with topics that students dislike the most (like fractions, geometry, function relationships, etc), it’s always possible for students to have fun learning them! The way to do this is to play math games. 

Playing games in math classes is extremely beneficial for both students and teachers. From the student’s perspective, it can make math more fun to learn. Many, many students don’t think math is fun to learn because it’s boring or too difficult. However, involving games makes math seem way more fun, exciting, and intriguing. When there’s a bit of competition involved, some points earned here and there, and chance for a comeback win, there’s no backing down! For example, in a game called Number Boxes, students have the opportunity to play each other in trying to create the biggest (or smallest) number possible from randomly generated numbers. Since there is fun and competition involved, students are much more entertained than they would be by simply doing a worksheet about this. 

From a teacher's perspective, having students learn important mathematical subjects and develop important mathematical skills is much more effective through enjoyment rather than through a lecture. For instance, if a teacher is trying to teach their class about the coordinate plane and having them practice reading coordinates, a handful of students won’t pay attention and begin to struggle. This is because the concept itself sounds kind of boring and not something that will be useful someday. However, through my newly developed game Coordistroy, students practice these same skills in a more enjoyable way. Another reason why playing games in the classroom is encouraged is because students will learn problem solving, communication, teamwork, and strategic thinking skills all while learning about important mathematical ideas. Additionally, if students are doing something they enjoy, the chances of them remembering that topic is much higher than if the teacher is relying on memorization from the lecture. 

In order to have an effective game used in either the classroom or even at home, it’s important to make sure there’s a good theme first of all. Without a theme, there’s no purpose to the game and there seems to be no point to it. Additionally, there needs to be a clear goal in which players must accomplish. If students can accomplish a goal with little to no time pressure, it will be a hit game! A few more factors that make a great game are if mistakes players make are handled productively and if there is a catchup factor. If a player is losing very badly, it’s never good to have a game that drives the knife even deeper into them. Having a game in which the last round or two is worth more points, then the student who is losing still has hope to make a comeback! 

Overall, playing math games in the classroom has endless benefits not only revolving around mathematical topics themselves, but also around skills that students will use for the rest of their lives. They’re fun ways to learn about maybe not-so-fun topics and add a bit of competition too (cause who doesn’t like that?)

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