Last school year, I had students comes to my room four at a time during homeroom. I asked them to come there to play Bounty Hunter so I could pre-test them, watch them play, and post-test them without losing class time. Most importantly, the students were struggling with determining slope from a graph and needed this reinforcement.
I was amazed at how quickly they 'learned' the material for the game. They were correctly placing the numbers in the "fraction" for the game and moving their pawns in the right direction. I was so impressed. Then I gave them the post-test and although their scores increased, I expected scores to be much higher due to their competence in the game.
After this happened with 16 students (4 groups) I decided to figure out what was going on. When the 5th group came during homeroom I took some time between the game and the post-test to talk with the students. During the game, the students did spectacular just like the other groups. Then I gave them a graph like the one on the right in the image above and asked them to tell me the slope. I got blank stares from all 4 of them. After some discussion with the students I found out that they didn't see the pawns in the game as points on a graph. In fact, they didn't even see the grid lines on the game board as grid lines on the graph. Once I took 30 seconds (literally) to make those connections for the students, the light bulbs went on. The difference really showed on the post test.
Pre- to Post-Test results without making connections for students --> 18% increase
Pre- to Post-Test results with making connections for students --> 35% increase
The Absolute Value Equation Game:
In our building, the administration team allows us to decide what day and period we want to be formally observed. I chose to play a game with the class on the day of my observation. (You think I would have learned my lesson from Bounty Hunter, but I'm a little thick in the head.) My plan was to play the game with the class, then give the students an exit ticket before leaving, and showing my Assistant Principal what a genius I am. Ha! Not one single student got the exit ticket question correct. Not one.
The exit ticket was a problem similar to the one above. "Solve |x+5| = 2 for x". Most students gave an answer of x = -3 and quite a few of the remaining students wrote IDK on their exit slips (The correct answers are x = -7, -3).
The Assistant Principal asked to see the exit slips and noticed that not one student was correct. "What happened Mrs. Oswald?" Oh, I'm certain that I didn't connect the game to the curriculum. *sigh*
The next day I took some time again to talk with the students. In less than a minute I was able to help the students understand the connection between the game and the problem. For my own sanity, I needed to give another formative assessment on this. This time all but one of the students were able to get the correct answers.