Monday, January 1, 2024

GEO - Middle School Geometry 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.

Leah Barber selected Greater Than for her first video, an integer multiplication game. (Handout)

Leah's original math game is a great spin on Uno called Geo. Cards & Handout. What follows is Leah's explanation of the game and thoughts on why play games in math class.

How Geo Came To Be

My idea of Geo came from Professor Golden mentioning Uno during one of our classes. I thought that Uno already included a lot of good components of a math game. This included number recognition, being able to categorize and identify different elements of a category, problem solving, catch-up factor, surprise elements,  etc. Since Uno already had strong components of a math game I decided to create a game that was based on it. At the start I was thinking about doing a game that had to do with geometry so I began thinking of ways students could categorize shapes. Initially I didn’t know if I wanted students to create their own connections between different shapes, so I considered doing a Guess Who style game. However, after trying out a draft version of it I thought Geo would not only be less complicated but it would still offer students the opportunity to practice identifying shapes based on properties and computing area. From here I decided that instead of colors and numbers, like regular Uno, the two categories would be shape and area. Then I went through and made a rough draft of the game that iterated through many revisions until I was happy with its final form. Throughout these iterations I changed things like what the special action cards would be, what shapes would be included, how many cards would be included, what the shapes looked like, and what information I would include on the individual shape cards. 

Why Teachers Should Play GEO:

There are many reasons why teachers should play Geo with their students. Geo covers different Michigan Math Standards such as: CCSM. 6G.1: Find the area of right triangles, other triangles, special quadrilaterals, and polygons and CCSM. 5G: Classify two-dimensional figures into categories based on their properties. Beyond letting students practice finding the area of different polygons and identifying shapes by their properties, Geo helps students practice integer multiplication, reason mathematically, and build problem solving skills. Due to Geo being a competitive game, students often become engaged doing math, checking the work of other students, and reasoning mathematically in order to win. This is another reason why teachers should play Geo with their students. Geo allows students to engage in math in a fun, interactive way. Many learners have anxiety around math or think that it is boring, hard, irrelevant, etc. Geo is a way to get learners engaged and have fun while doing math. 

Other Uses: 

The materials of Geo could be used outside of playing the game. Teachers could use the cards to create a memory style game where students try to match different areas or shapes. Other uses include going through the cards as examples of computing areas with students. Teachers could also play a Polygon Capture style game where students identify all the shapes they can that fit under the different command cards. Following playing Geo teachers could have a discussion with students about what they noticed or wondered when playing the game. This could start a good dialogue about different shape properties, how different shapes are related or different, definitions of shapes, etc. They could also have students discuss strategies and problem solving skills they used to try to win. 

Why Play Math Games

There are many reasons to play games in the math classroom. To start, math games allow students to engage in mathematics in a fun, interactive way. Students often think that math is boring, too analytical, irrelevant, etc. By playing games in the classroom students can experience math in a way that it often isn't presented to them. This can also dispel anxieties many students experience with math. Due to previous bad experiences with math, whether it be a harsh teacher, tough material, or overwhelming course load, students can develop anxiety surrounding math. This can also affect how students think of themselves. Bad experiences with math that cause students to do poorly can lead to them thinking they are dumb or not a “math person”. By involving games into lessons students can create positive experiences with math and start to dispel any anxiety or negative thoughts surrounding math.

Math games also allow students multiple entry points to engage in math. Oftentimes this idea of not being a “math person” is due to inaccessible lessons. By including a math game in a lesson you can create many opportunities for students to participate in math. A good math game includes some aspect of luck, strategy, catch up, or surprise that allow students who are struggling to still succeed. By creating accessible activities for students they can start to think of themselves as someone who is capable of doing math. 

Getting students to reason and express themselves mathematically can be challenging. Often students don’t want to participate in discussions in math class due to a multitude of reasons. Including a math game however is a great way to get students talking about math. Due to the competitive nature of games students are more likely to reason, argue, make conjectures, and express mathematical ideas in order to win. This creates a great dialogue where students can think through material covered in class together and come to conclusions on their own. By doing this students will continue to grow their self concept as a mathematician and be able to better communicate mathematical ideas. Math games also help students build problem solving skills. A good math game has players interacting with each other and constantly trying to figure out their next move. As stated before a good math game also includes strategy. These elements allow students to build their problem solving skills as they identify what they need to do to win, how they are going to do that, executing their plan, assessing how it worked, and what they will do next time. 

Lastly, including math games in the classroom is a great idea because it is a great way to introduce, explore, or practice mathematical concepts. Teachers or parents may feel that including a game in a lesson will distract students from their learning. This however is not the case. Math games are not something that is just filler. Instead math games are great ways to introduce new concepts by allowing students to get familiar or explore with new ideas in a low stakes, fun environment. Math games can also be used to help students review a concept they already learned by applying their knowledge in a new way. 

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