Gaming and Math with Xbox

game 4

I’ll admit that it has been awhile since I’ve used the Xbox in the library.  When you are juggling so many things, it’s hard to keep everything up in the air at the same time. I was so excited when one of our resource teachers emailed me recently to ask if I could do an Xbox lesson with her class. She had heard that we could weave some math into our gaming time, but she wasn’t sure what to do. The request also came from her students, which I loved. We put a time on the calendar and she brought her group of 7 students to the library for some gaming fun.

game 3

For this lesson, I chose to use the Kinect Sports game and put it in “party mode”. This mode allows you to split a group into two teams. Each team chooses a mascot and players take turns competing in six rounds. I really liked this mode because it gave a very dependable structure for taking turns. It alternated between the red team and blue team and students kept track of the lineup within their own team and consistently rotated through that same lineup. The Xbox chose which game would be played in each round.

game 2

We didn’t do math every time a student came up to play, but we did pause throughout the game to do some mental math as well as work out more challenging problems on paper. The team scores increased by hundreds and fifties so it was easy to do a mental comparison of how many more points one team had than another. We did this in between rounds.

game 1

For the discus game, it measured distance in meters. We took the two distances and saw how many more feet one student threw the discus than another. This was a perfect tie in to what students are currently working on in math because it gave them practice adding or subtracting decimals as well as reading decimals with tenths and hundredths.

In bowling, sometimes we did a comparison of the two totals of pins knocked down and other times we had students see how many pins both teams knocked down together. This gave them some practice with 2-digit addition.

Each student used his or her own strategy to solve the problem. The teacher and I walked around and checked in with students while they worked, and I muted the screen so that the game was paused and not distracting them. If students reached a frustration point with the math, I started writing beginning steps onto the board to nudge them forward.

Since this was the group’s first time trying this out, I didn’t want to push too much math at once, so we were careful to balance play with work time. There’s certainly many more math problems that could be done using the scores, distances, and times in a game.

There was also a lot of other things going on during this time that I was reminded of. First, I was reminded of the amount of energy that is released during gaming. With the Kinect, students are actively jumping, kicking, running, and swinging throughout their turn. Even the students who aren’t playing are being active because they are jumping up and down in the background to cheer on their teammates.

I was also reminded of how much cooperation it takes to pull off this type of gaming.  Students had to take turns, deal with messing up on their turn, handle “losing”, and working through frustrations. We talked about these things before we played, but we saw the students really working through all of these potentially frustrating parts of gaming. It’s interesting to see students handle stress in gaming differently than they might handle stress in another environment or situation. It caused me to really ponder how we can make those connections or create similar environments in the situations where students have more difficulty responding to stress. I, of course, don’t have any answers at the moment, but I’m thinking.

I told these students that I hoped they would spread the news of their gaming experience back to their classrooms so that other teachers might try this with their class. I definitely need to throw the gaming ball back into the air and nudge classes to try this again next year.


Barrow’s Knot

KNOT 5Now that we have a mobile computer lab for the library, we no longer have a wired lab full of mice, headphones, and power cords.  However, people still need headphones, mice, etc, so we put these in boxes for people to grab as they need it.  Since our students are usually in a rush to clean up and get back to class, they often just toss the mice back into the box rather than wind them up correctly.  This resulted in a very tangled problem.  The cords of the mice became so tangled that you could not get even 1 mouse out of the box to use.  I definitely did not have time to sit down and untangle these, and I felt bad asking a volunteer to do it.  I wasn’t sure how the mice were going to be usable again.

This morning on the way to school I had an idea.  The knot reminded me of Cobble’s Knot in the book Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.  I found that part of the book and prepared an announcement for BTV.  I read an excerpt from the book and then talked about making a connection to our own library (which is a standard we teach).  I introduced Barrow’s Knot by holding up the tangled mess of mice.  I issued a challenge to see who could brave the knot and untangle the mice.  After BTV, I put the knot on a table with the Maniac Magee book.  I also put a sign up sheet for students to sign their name as they attempted the challenge.  If they were successful in getting a mouse untangled, they could highlight their name to earn a prize.  KNOT 3

If you want to see the announcement of Barrow’s Knot, watch our morning broadcast.  Fast forward to 1:23.

I barely got the knot on the table before students were in the library to attempt the challenge.  Our library has been buzzing all day long with kids coming to see the knot, try to untangle it, and asking who was successful.  This is what the knot looked like as people were trying to defeat it.

Only 14 students attempted the challenge before Barrow’s Knot was defeated.  I never imagined it would be done so quickly.  These students put each untangled mouse into an individual ziploc bag to prevent this from happening again.  For the rest of the day, kids came to take the challenge and hear the stories of the students who were successful.  It was so much fun.  I was amazed by how something that was so frustrating to me was suddenly fun when it was turned into a game.  Students were so willing to take on the knot rather than look at it as an impossible time-consuming task.  I was also amazed at how something fun and mysterious brought so many kids to the library.  It makes me wonder about the missed opportunities I may have had with other dilemmas the

I’m taking away so much from this one simple act such as:

  • Gamification is a natural part of us.  Chores are more fun when they are turned into a game.
  • When we work together on a dilemma that frustrates us, great things can happen.
  • Combining expertise and talents can accomplish what seems impossible.
  • Our students hold the answers to many of our dilemmas and frustrations if we just open up the space for them to contribute.
  • The library should be more than a place to come and get books.  It is a place to work together, solve problems, be creative, make connections.
  • We must model what it means to connect to a book through bringing books to life and intentionally connecting them to the real world.  I imagine many students will remember Maniac now that they have participated in a dilemma much like his own.

What do you take away from this?