Designing a math learning game

Based on these scenarios: Designing maths games, Homework and schoolwork “flip”, Home-school communications

Inspiration for these learning activity packages: Benchmark and design

Designer hat: Game Design / Logic

It is my intention for the students to internalize simple geometry concepts as their future understanding of more complex geometry will build on their basic understanding. Although a lot of students already master simple geometry it is good to for them to revisit the topic and others to internalize the basic concepts more thoroughly. Combining more advanced logical learning, learning of computer programming, and second order understanding of the motivations, skills and intentions of others, with this, I decide to present the students with the following design brief:

Design a math learning game for one concept of simple geometry for younger students using Scratch. Try to make the game fun and educational at the same time. In this, consider what the younger students find most challenging and what they find most engaging. Your game can be a concept or half functioning prototype.

Design Brief activity workshop: The students form teams and start discussing about their personal experiences of learning simple geometry, what they found most challenging with the way I taught it to them and what were the essential experiences that made it “click” for them. It is exciting to listen to their conversations, many of the “clicks” happened outside of school together with friends and family members. I am getting ideas for further developing my teaching approaches. After the lesson, each team has a refined design brief and a recorded reflection about what they did, what they plan to do and what challenges they anticipate. These foreseen challenges include among others that it will be hard to bring together the fun and educational aspect of the game. At home they set up their blogs and add entries.

Contextual Inquiry: The teams also start benchmarking existing educational games at home using the Internet. They collect their examples on their blogs. Some of the teams look at what kinds of games have been developed by other children using scratch, others look at geogebra and related larger widely used games. Other team members revisit the simple geometry maths concepts to ensure that the team has enough knowledge about the concept. During class time, the teams discuss the examples they found. They compare and analyze them based on their advantages and disadvantages. After the activity workshop the design brief, in particular the challenges and design ideas, are refined and a reflection is created. At home, the blogs are updated.

Product Design: During this lesson, I let the teams explore the Scratch software and let them start creating prototypes of their games. Some of the prototypes are drawings that look much like boardgames and some like paper prototypes of interactive digital games. Some teams actually start with the digital implementation of their games.

Participatory design: As all teams are designing for younger students who have math class during the same time on Tuesdays as my class, I agree with the other Maths teacher to let her students test and comment on the designs of the student teams in my class. The teams present their design briefs and their prototypes to the younger students, who start playing the game concepts and tell what works for them and what does not. The younger students also tell what they really enjoy doing that is totally unrelated to school learning. From these interactions, the student teams better understand the challenges with the way the concept is taught now and what it would engage them into finding out how stuff works geometrically. The student teams further refine their design briefs, especially what kind of game would support the children they are designing for. They also record a reflection and update their blogs.

Final Product Design: After the last learning activity workshop, the students have a finalized software game prototype and a finished design blog. The reflection recordings support them in creating a post about their future plans for the project and what they would do differently next time. Some teams are asking me to contact and invite professional game designers to school for lectures and informal Q&A sessions, others would like to visit a game development company.  Yet another team is considering to organize a school-wide gaming day where students play the games and vote for their favourite. To push this forward they ask me to send their design blogs to the school principal.

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This post is also available in: Turkish

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