Friday, March 27, 2015

Dressing Like a Professional - With Help

I have recently been introduced to the company Stitch Fix.  Have you heard of them?  It's a company where a personal stylist will send you 5 items (clothing and/or accessories) and you decide what you want to keep.  The catch?  You pay $20, then that $20 is credited to your account.  So, you get your money back anyway.  If you decide to keep all 5 items, they apply a 25% discount.

I have received 2 fixes so far and LOVE both.  I find that when I go clothing shopping, I end up buying basically the same thing all the time.  Stitch fix takes me out of my comfort zone and I am finding all sorts of clothing styles that I love.  My students have noticed a change in me as well.  They asked me if I bought a whole new wardrobe, that I've been looking very stylish lately.  Actually, I have kept a total of 5 items from Stitch Fix, but have been more adventurous with the clothing I already own.

Anyway, I wanted to share this with all of you incase you were interested in joining.  Click here to sign up, even if you're not ready to start just yet.  You can always schedule a delivery later.

Monday, March 23, 2015

What Make Bounty Hunter So Special?

I'm in the process of writing "the story" for our Kickstarter campaign for Bounty Hunter.  In this story I have to convince people, mostly teachers, to use our game in their classrooms.  For a while I was stuck.  I was having trouble describing the feeling that a player gets while playing the game.  In my mind that feeling was what makes the game so unique.

And then it hit me.  It's the feedback!

The feedback that players get in Bounty Hunter is very personal.  An answer is not right or wrong, it either fits with their plan or it doesn't.

Let's think about a typical review game that we might play in our classrooms.  I play review games where I will give the students a question and they have to answer it correctly.  If they do, their team gets points, or gets to move their pawn, or something.  For example, here is a question I would give:

Determine the slope of this line:

If the student gives me a correct answer of -3/2, I'll give their team 10 points.  But what about the feedback for an incorrect answer?  I know that some students will listen to my explanation, but others will tune me out.  They may not even know that I'm talking, they are getting ready for the next question.  In this case, the feedback that is given may or may not reach the student.

I'd like to show you a move in Bounty Hunter:

For this game, let's suppose we are the yellow jewel thief.  We want to land on the pink gem and we want to avoid the red bounty hunter.  If we create a slope of -2/1 our jewel thief will land on the pink gem (yay!).  However, if we accidentally create a slope of 2/1 we would land on the bounty hunter and be captured (no!).  You can imagine that a player's reaction might be more intense in this game compared to the other review games I play in my class.  

The Quality and Importance of the Feedback Matters. 

In Bounty Hunter, there is no right or wrong slope.  But the move you make may not be what you wanted it to be.  That is an important difference from my typical review game where there is only one correct answer.  

Once game play starts, the players start to develop a plan.  It's personal, and they created it.  If they do something mathematically that doesn't fit with their plan, they're going to want to know why.  This makes the feedback important to the player.  In the example above, if we create that accidental slope of 2/1 and expect our jewel thief to move down and right, but see him move down and left,  then we are going to want answers.  We might even yell out.  

On the other hand, it's very satisfying to see your character move as you expected.  There is more than one reward to creating the slope you expected:  The player will see what they anticipated (reward) and the player lands on the pink gem (reward).  

So, What Makes Bounty Hunter So Special?  The feedback that the students receive from the game is personal, important, and nonjudgmental.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Kickstarter Campaign for Bounty Hunter

This is getting real folks.  Last week, we recorded the audio for our Kickstarter video.  Now, Micah is busy editing.  My job is to connect with people on social media.  Want to help me do my job?  Follow us on twitter.  @SirIsaacNewbton 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bounty Hunter - Does It Even Work?

My business partner and I are getting ready to begin our campaign and one important item I want to include is the effectiveness of Bounty Hunter.  Are students even learning about slope while playing the game?

For months, I have been asking students to come to my classroom during homeroom to take a pre-test, play the board game, then take a post-test.  I would sit and listen to them play, taking notes about rules that weren't clear, balance of winning, and any comments or suggestions that the students made.   As of now I have had 16 students play the game, more students will be playing this but here are the results so far.

At first, I had the students take the tests and play the game without even mentioning the word slope.  As a matter of fact, I said very little during game play, I just listened.  I wanted to see if the game stood on its own.  And to some extent it did.  Students were able to earn higher scores on the post-test than the pre-test.  However, I was confused by the post-test results, I thought they would be higher.  The same students that could play the game with ease (create slope-fractions, move their pawn in the correct direction, and even advise other players) were not getting results on the post-test like I would predict.

I decided that since this was a classroom game and provided many teachable moments, I should take those moments and teach.  Isn't that the whole point of the game?  Isn't this a game that will be used by teachers who will use these moments too?  With the last group of three students that I worked with, I used these teachable moments.  I helped them to make the connection between the game and the graphs they were seeing.  This was a matter of about 10 seconds.  I told them that the points on the line were like the placement of the pawns, and the line was the line of movement.  Done.

Since we're number people, here are some numbers.

For the first 13 students...  Pre-test: 21.8%  Post-test: 35.3%  Increase of 13.5%
(No connections relayed to the students from the teacher)

The last 3 students...  Pre-test: 13.9%   Post-test: 55.6%  Increase of 41.7%
(Teacher did relay connections to students)

Overall...  Pre-test: 20.3%   Post-test: 39.1%  Increase of 18.8%

I know the number of students is a factor here.  Hopefully as more students are tested, the results will become more solid.  What the results are telling me so far is the importance of the connection between the game and math we are learning in class.  As teachers we can't assign a game (or project or activity for that matter) to students and then not help them see how it all connects.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Clash of Clans Lesson - Writing & Solving Linear Equations

Last week, I talked to my students about Clash of Clans.  I've had this idea for a lesson for a while now, but never actually used it...until last week.

Here is the slide show if you are interested in using it.  Here is a link for the google slide.

I knew that some of my students were not familiar with the game, and tried to introduce them to this lesson as simply as possible.  But there was much resistance from the students who were unfamiliar.  My theory is that they were frustrated from not understanding immediately as some of their peers did, and wanted to shut down right from the beginning.  That's just my theory.

The bright side is that some students were so engaged, that they were excitedly talking to me about the game.  One student kept saying over and over that this is the best lesson ever.

Here is some student work for your viewing pleasure, warts and all:

Linear Equation Card Sort - Day 3

Yes, three days of sorting cards.  Is it worth it?  I sure hope so...

Read about day 1 here.

Read about day 2 here.

Now, that it's day 3, I'm giving more responsibility to the students.  We have sorted cards, we have talked about the different methods to go about sorting these cards, and now the students will create their own 'set' of cards.

Each group was given 6 index cards and a paper clip.  They were to write their names on 1 of the index cards and create matching cards with the other 5: Slope-Intercept, Standard Form, Table, Intercepts, and Graph.
I finally decided to give them a grade for this activity.  If students were successful with creating a set of cards, they received High Performance for that outcome.

Check out their work:

This partnership didn't do too shabby.  You can see that I need to have discussions with them about the intercepts, and about more information shown on their graph.


Here's one more example:

Again, with the intercepts.  This was a useful piece of formative assessment.  If I had only completed the card sort with the students, I would have thought they understood intercepts.  However, this clearly shows that my students don't quite understand them like I would hope.

What I Learned from my High School Social Studies Teacher

Back in high school there was this Social Studies teacher (Let's call him Mr. A) that made teaching look easy....almost too easy;  like ...