Trying to find math inside everything else

Posts tagged ‘technology in schools’

Dragonbox in the Classroom

Last week, my students spent 2 double periods playing Dragonbox, the iPad (and computer) game designed to teach solving linear equations, which I think it does quite well. (I agree with many of Max Ray’s opinions when he writes about it here. Which makes sense, as Max first showed me the game this past summer.)

While one of my goals was teaching solving equations, it was not my only one, which is what I wanted to talk about here. (I’ll probably review the game itself later.) I told the students that I had forgotten to make a lesson, so we were just going to play a game on the iPad today. What I did want, though, was for them to home their ability to figure out how something works. To me, this is an even more important lesson to get than just solving equations.

To this end, I talked about how websites like GameFAQs has walkthroughs for all sorts of games, but one walkthroughs were all written by regular players, who sat down with a game right when they bought it, took notes on what they did, figured things out, and shared with others. So we were going to take that role. In their Interactive Notebooks, I told them to write down every thing they could do in the game. Whenever they came across a new rule, some new ability, or a new solution to a tough puzzle, write it down. Example: “Tap the green swirl to make it disappear.”

The surprising part was, they really did it, and quite well. Hey even discovered a lot of things about the game that I didn’t know, because I always played it “perfectly,” since I knew the rules of algebra. (Example: if you have a denominator under a green swirl (aka 0) and tap it, the while thing disappears. Or a green swirl won’t disappear if it is the only thing left on its side, which was fun to talk about later.)

At the end of my first double, with about 20 minutes left, I compiled all the notes they took using Novel Ideas Only (where all students stand and share things they have written, only sitting once everything they have written down is said, either by themselves or someone else), creating a master list of actions they could refer to next time.

The next class, they came in and immediately started playing. I must say, the entire time I used it, the kids were really into it, and most of them were really persistent. Some occasionally requested help, but my intervention was minimal. This time, I had this answer several questions after they had played some more, which really dove into the meat of the game. What does this card or action in the game represent in math? Why does a certain rule in the game happen that way?

One thing I really loved is how solid the game got them on how dividing something by itself won’t make it go away. It was a tactic many of them tried in several levels and it always got them stuck. I focused on the difference between “zeroing out” and “oneing out.”

We had one major downside, technology-wise, though. Each game had four save files, which worked out, because I had four sections. So one file per student. But there is nothing to stop a student in one class from playing on, or, even worse, DELETING, another student’s file. I e-mailed the company, and they said a solution would happen in a future update.

Today was the follow-up quiz, and they mostly did well. The things they stuck on was something that wasn’t well covered in the game: the distributive property. But we’ll work on that.

Today’s Roles: IT Department, Programmer, Lecturer, Assessor, Tutor, Co-ordinator….

5:30 – Alarm goes off. That is not happening.

6:20-7:00 – Wake up, shower, pack up, go. I decide to take the subway to school today, instead of biking, because I have too much to do to lose those 40 minutes.

7:00-7:07 – Walk to subway. Catch up on Twitter while walking.

7:07-7:40 – Subway to work. My train still isn’t running to my job because of Sandy, so I have to transfer. While I’m riding, I grade math labs. (Despite grading for several hours over the weekend, I didn’t finish.) I don’t finish by the time we arrive.

7:40-7:50 – Walk to work plus breakfast.

7:50-8:55 – Enter my classroom to discover 1) it’s a sauna, and 2) that the wi-fi is down in my classroom (and only my room). This is awesome, because I have a computer based lesson today. Also, the person in charge of the laptop cart doesn’t get in until later. Luckily, I am technologically proficient, so I spent this time creating an ad-hoc network and setting it up on the ancient Dell laptops (after tracking down the AP to unlock the tech room) so the students could get and give files. I also spent some of this time inputting the grading I did into the gradebook.

8:55-9:46 – Start of contracted time. Embassy class, which is our special version of advisory. We finally have a curriculum to follow, so I need to modify for my students.

9:46-11:30 – Math class, students brought in survey results to analyze. So I pass out laptops and walk them through the analysis excel file I made yesterday. Minor tech problems, so most of my time is spent fixing those and running around teaching the quirks of excel while the students do data entry and create conclusions. I explain the requirements for their project, stop a student from hacking into one of the computers, and general maintenance. We also have problems getting the files back to me, because they don’t follow directions.

11:30-11:50 – Putting away the laptops and making sure all files are saved.

11:50-12:20 – Run and get lunch, while planning the next lesson with my co-teacher. When we get back, we meet with a third teacher about two students who need resource room (since I’m the programmer, and can change it.)

12:20-1:20 – Student lunch period, so some kids come up to my classroom to work on their projects. I continue setting up laptops (since my afternoon class is larger). At 12:45, the wi-fi returns, so I switch the computers back to that instead of the ad-hoc network.

1:20-2:00 – First opportunity to use the bathroom. I run to the programming office to change a schedule. Then I go back to grading, or, more accurately, data entry.

2:05-3:45 – Another math class, this one with 4 languages spoken and no ESL support. The tech problems seem even worse at first, but balance out in the end. Unlike my morning class, which is very industrious, several pairs in this class did not come prepared and needed to do alternate work/catch up work. End of contracted time.

3:45-3:55 – I bring some of my students to the Teacher Work Room to make copies of their surveys for them, so they can catch up on their project. I get a cookie from a co-worker.

3:55-4:15 – Break and decompress, including short chats with coworkers in the hall.

4:15-4:45 – Back on the grading grind.

4:45-5:30 – I plan with my co-teacher on Thursday’s lesson, which we won’t have time to do tomorrow because of other meetings. (I’ll have a Math for America meeting in the evening.) We adjusted my Lying with Statistics Stations because they were confusing and ill-timed last year, opting this year for a looser flow. I finish grading while I do this.

5:30-5:35 – I write an e-mail to a parent because her son is way behind on the project.

5:45-6:20 – Time to head home. I grab a hot dog on the way. True to my pledge to not bring work home (even though I broke it over the weekend), I play my 3DS on the subway ride home. I almost fall asleep on the train, and my game freezes, losing all progress.

6:20-6:35 – I stop at the supermarket on the way home, to get some stuff for dinner and breakfast.

6:45-7 – I forgot the shallot. So I change my plans, because I don’t want to go back out. It’s a tough decision, I seriously thought about it for 5 minutes because I wanted the shallot but was so tired. I make more bachelor-y food.

7-7:45 – Watch Daily Show/Colbert while catching up on tweets/blogs.

8-9 – Leisure Time

9-9:20 – I try to go into the Global Math Department meeting about homework, but the audio is too messed up, so I duck out early. Now I’m going to lay down and read the news/play with my DS probably until around 11, when I’ll hit the sack.