Archive for the ‘Playing to Learn’ Category

Numenko: Math Game for Arithmetic

Although I can’t see using Numenko for many college classes (except possibly for MathET), it would be a great game to help adult students practice their arithmetic skills in Developmental Math courses.  If you run a tutoring lab or a math help lab, I could see having a copy of Numenko handy.

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New Math Game: Antiderivative Block

Here’s a game I created last week called “Antiderivative Block” to encourage students to (1) learn their derivative rules well (2) begin thinking about derivatives backwards, and (3) to learn to be careful not to mix up derivatives and antiderivatives.

Two students playing the Antiderivative Block game.

Here’s the game board of a well-played game:

Game board (6x6 grid) that is almost completely used up.

The rules are very simple (they are described on the game pdf), but the game play is complex enough that you really have to be on your toes to play.  Here are a couple of students demonstrating how to play:

I have to say that watching students play this game was the most fun I have ever had in a math class.  They quickly got very competitive and I heard several students in both classes say something like “I really need to learn these derivatives” – even when you think you have won the game, it can be lost by missing a negative on an answer.  Within 10-minutes, students from different pairs were challenging each other to matches (winners played winners).  Some won on mathematical skill alone (being better at the derivatives than their opponent), some won by playing the game well (and knowing their math).  Their attempts to psych each other out and cross-group banter had me laughing so hard in one class that I was crying.

Another interesting side effect of this game was that one of my ESL students suddenly got much better at correctly saying the math because his opponents wouldn’t let him claim spaces if he said “sine x squared” instead of “sine squared x” … I think his understanding of how to SAY the math had improved ten-fold by the end of the hour.

Don’t let the calculus nature of this game fool you.  You could build the exact same game for learning trig values of special angles, for learning to simplify exponential expressions, for exponential and log functions.  As a matter of fact, on the very same day I built this game, I instantly modified it for learning vocabulary in my MathET class (lucky for me, every student already had a set of small vocabulary cards that were the same size as the gameboard spaces).  Here they are playing Geometry Vocabulary Block:

Four students playing Geometry Vocabulary Block on two game boards.

We also had one group of three players (we used red chips for the third player) and everyone who tried the 3-player game said that the gameplay was very different than the 2-player game.  So a simple alteration to the game is just to change the number of players.  The students also suggested that they wanted more cards to move into the game board so that the problems were always fresh.

Three students playing the 3-player version of the game.

P.S. Sorry about the strange RSS problem this week. It was not intentional.  Just a misguided WordPress plugin that I tried.  Needless to say, it has been disabled.

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Playing to Learn Math (the video)

This presentation is a philosophical argument for what is wrong with the way we teach math and why we need to bring the fun back to learning it.  It serves as an argument for any subject (although it is particularly targeted towards math).

Prezi presentation: Playing to Learn Math?

Video from MichMATYC keynote (45 min)

I haven’t had time to produce the picture-in-picture video, so if you want to watch the keynote, pull it up side-by-side with the Prezi and click through in the appropriate spots.


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Biography of Gamification Thought Leaders

Last week, @enjoymentland posted a good list of thought leaders on the topic of gamification (but no links to any resources or explanation why these folks are on the list). I wanted to learn more about each person, so I’m adding biographical information and links to each name below.

Jane McGonigal, of TED Talk fame “Gaming can make a better world” and one of the founders of Gameful, a secret headquarters for “World-changing game designers” (read more about this at Kickstarter). Jane works at the Institute for the Future and is on twitter: @avantgame

Jesse Schell, from Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center, is also the author of The Art of Game Design, which examines psychological principles that make all kinds of games “good games.” Twitter: @jesseschell

B.J. Fogg teaches at Stanford and examines interesting methods and metrics for changing behavior (captology) and I so wish I had the time to take his Persuasive Online Video course. Twitter: @bjfogg

Dennis “Dens” Crowley is the co-founder of Foursquare and teaches (adjunct) at NYU. Twitter: @dens

Amy Jo Kim is a researcher on online communities and social architecture (and CEO of Shufflebrain). You can watch her Google Talk: Putting the Fun in Functional: Applying Game Mechanics to Functional Software. Twitter: @amyjokim

Natron Baxter makes productivity games: ”Fun is not the enemy of work … or productivity” and was one of the developers who built Evoke. In particular, I love his tips for Knowledge Sharing (Zipline) and I suspect he’ll love the article that I’ve written about KM that publishes in December (if he asks nicely, I’ll let him read it now).  Twitter: @natronbaxter

Jen McCabe builds mobile health and Internet health games (see imoveyou). Twitter: @jensmccabe

Nicole Lazzaro is the President of XEODesign, Inc. She has a 2004 paper called Why we play games: Four keys to more emotion without stories (PDF).  The four “keys” are: 1. Hard fun, 2. Easy fun, 3. Altered States, and 4. The People Factor.  Twitter: @nicolelazzaro

Raph Koster is the author of my favorite book from the last year, A Theory of Fun for Game Design and a game designer in San Diego. Twitter: @raphkoster

Mark Pincus is the co-founder and CEO of Zynga (they built the games Mafia Wars and Farmville). Twitter: @markpinc (not active)

Gabe Zichermann of Gamification Co. is involved in organizing the Gamification Summit and is co-author of the book Game-based Marketing.  Twitter: @gzicherm

Eric Zimmerman is the co-author of Rules of Play, teaches courses on Game Design for various schools, is a member of Local Number 12, and writes the blog Being Playful.  I attended one of Eric’s social game design workshops at GLS2010 and it was great!  Twitter: @zimmermaneric (not active)

Keith Lee is the CEO and co-founder of Booyah (see MyTown). Twitter: @keithlee0 (not active)

Byron Reeves is a professor at Stanford, and the co-founder of Seriosity, Inc and has built a product called Attent (to gamify productivity).  You can see one of his talks, Work Sucks, Games are Great on TechAffair. Twitter: @Seriosity

Colleen Macklin (my addition to the list)  is a Professor at the Parsons New School for Design and the director of the PETLab.  I’ve seen Colleen speak twice and I think she’s doing some awesome work on influence games.  Twitter: @colleenmacklin

Who am I? Here’s my bio. :)  Maria Andersen is a learning futurist and math professor who has spent the last two years researching games, learning, and game design (why? she has her reasons).  She’s given numerous presentations in education about restructuring learning around the principles of game design and play (especially as it relates to math).  She’s created a collection of good games for higher education.  She is very interested in the gamification of learning, and soon enough (December), you’ll see one of the things she’s been working on.  Twitter: @busynessgirl

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Playing to Learn Math (new version)

I am at the Kansas City Math Technology Expo this weekend doing two talks.

Today’s talk was Playing to Learn Math? I gave this at TexMATYC in the spring, but just updated it to add some non-digital types of play that you can use in the classroom.  There are five great math games mentioned in this presentation. Direct links to these games are below:

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Random But Organized Thoughts (9-5-2010)

Data Visualization and Data Mining
Serious Games
  • Check out these brilliant little games: Machinarium (for critical thinking, logic) and Small Worlds, which is like exploring a cave. [via @BryanAlexander]
  • There’s a project to use WoW  to “develop a curriculum for an after school program or “club” for at-risk students at the middle and/or high school level.  This program would use the game, World of Warcraft, as a focal point for exploring Writing/Literacy, Mathematics, Digital Citizenship, Online Safety, and would have numerous projects/lessons intended to develop 21st-Century skills.” Read more about it at the WoWinSchool wiki.
  • Tabula Digita will be releasing a new game soon, this one called Dimension L and designed to teach Literacy skills.
  • Grow Valley: A game about thinking about the future and how we get to a futuristic high-tech society. (click on English and be sure to actually read the instructions)
  • “With “gamification,” companies study and identify natural human tendencies and employ game-like mechanisms to give customers a sense that they’re having fun while working towards a rewards-based goal.” from Play to Win: The Game-Based Economy [via @HoppingFun and @amyjokim]


Great Quotes
  • “I don’t think Americans are ‘bowling alone.’  They’re bowling on their cell phones.” from @WorldFutureSoc
  • “It’s not a bug, it’s an undocumented feature.” from @dahara
  • From the latest #lrnchat, “I spent 18 years in schools to get ready to learn.” from @mrch0mp3rs, followed by “On the other hand, there is a saying that when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” from @moehlert (wise words from both)
Links for STEM

    Great Links for Everyone

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    Random But Organized Thoughts (8-29-2010)

    Data Visualization and Mining

    Great Links for STEM

    Just for Fun

    Great Links for Everyone

    Serious Games

    In other news, our Math ELITEs are ready to be used!  Here’s a picture of the new tables.  Also, my husband and I spent our 15th Wedding Anniversary sitting in front of a large screen TV (with no reception … not watching it) and watching TED Talks on a 3″ phone screen.  It was a great way to celebrate!  Also, I booked my trip to Mountain View for September. Can’t wait!

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    Random But Organized Thoughts (8-22-2010)

    For STEM educators

    Other great stuff

    • If you like geeky cartoons, you have to check out Geek&Poke!
    • Teachers Without Technology Strike Back [via @jryoung] offers more on the digital divide when it comes to, technology and teaching. Let’s hope this professor doesn’t really see himself as the center of all knowledge in the classroom. [thanks @ppezzelle for pointing that out about the photo]
    • Very interesting analysis of Los Angeles teacher data: Year after year, some teachers’ students make great strides and some do not.  Who’s teaching LA’s kids? is intriguing. Ask yourself what you’d do if you discovered your classes were falling behind the rest?
    • Another interesting study finds that children who are younger than their classmates are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.  It’s likely that we’re often confusing ADHD with simple immaturity. [via @courosa]
    • It turns out that Android users use even more data than iPhone users! We may all end up with our bandwidth usage capped (let’s hope there’s always an option to pay for unlimited bandwidth for those of us without landline broadband at home). [via @hybridkris]
    • A few folks on twitter were asking me about a cheap and portable data projector.  Here’s one for $300 that should do the trick (although, for the record I have not tried it myself).
    • TIP: You should always download the flash version of any Prezi you plan to give as an in-person presentation.  First, once you’re duplicating your browser on another screen there are glitches in the Prezi browsing.  Second, there are still too many random down times on Prezi to take the chance that it happens during your presentation time.  Be safe: Download the flash files (free).
    • NPR takes on the Beloit College “Mindset List” that is published annually, and they make some good points. [via @academicdave]
    • Wired magazine has an eyecatching headline this month (big surprise): The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet.  It’s not that we’re less digital, it’s that we’re accessing the web more through applications than direct visits.  They have a great visual, which should make it worth the click. [via @eLearningGuild]
    • The Face-to-face Lecture: Only Accidentally Valuable? is a great blog post by @erekbruff in response to reading Cognitive Surplus.  He poses the question: Are there activities in which higher education faculty engage that seem inherently valuable that are only accidentally valuable?
    • Designing for the Mind by Francisco InChauste [via @oxala75]

    Serious Games

    1. Appointment  dynamic: a dynamic in which to succeed, one must return at a predefined time to take a predetermined action (i.e. Happy Hour, Farmville,
    2. Influence and status: the ability of one player to modify the behavior of another’s actions through social pressure (i.e. Gold Medallion vs. Silver Medallion on Delta, report cards, Valedictorian)
    3. Progression dynamic: a dynamic in which success is granularly displayed and measured through the process of completing itemized tasks (i.e. progress bars like on LinkedIn, World of Warcraft)
    4. Communal discovery: a dynamic wherein an entire community is rallied to work together to solve a challenge (i.e. Digg, DARPA Balloon Challenge)

    Great quotes

    • “What looks like laziness is often exhaustion – change simply wears people out” -Dan Heath, from Why Change Is So Hard: Because Self-Control is Exhaustible (a video about why self-control is so hard, from Fast Company)
    • “I don’t take attendance and don’t collect homework but I don’t think you can do well without it.” quoted from @DrTimony‘s favorite professor, who started the course with this statement.
    • Why we shouldn’t restrict/ban Internet in schools: “We TEACH kids how to cross the street, we don’t ban cars!” – Jamie from #mcsli10 [via @logicwing]
    • “It’s just a matter of time before Facebook becomes like Amazon: You went out with ____, you might also like ____.” from @jackscholfield
    • This just made me giggle: “Since when are higher ed institutions a beacon for innovative pedagogy?” [from @mctownsley]
    • “With seven game dynamics you can get anyone to do anything.” - Seth Priebatsch (from his TED Talk at TEDxBoston)  Also: “School is a game. It’s just not a terribly well-designed game.”


    In other news, I cancelled my Kindle order because I got used to reading books on my HTC EVO (Android) and the screen sizes are not so different between the 6″ Kindle and the EVO.  I invested in a souped-up battery which should give my EVO 24 hours or more of battery life.  I’m still reading Kindle books, just not waiting for a Kindle device.

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    Mindmap: Play and Learn

    At the end of yesterday’s presentation, I included a link to a new interactive Mindmap called “Play and Learn” (shortcut is

    This map is organized by subject and includes games or simulations that are available for each.  If you know of other games that are useful (focusing on high school / college age), please send them along to wyandersen at gmail dot com.

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    Playing to Learn?

    This is a rebuild of the Presentation I did in Texas called “Playing to Learn Math?” It is focused on a general audience in education and includes many more games and simulations than the prior version.  Before you click through, think about this …

    • 99% of boys aged 12-17 play video games
    • 94% of girls aged 12-17 play video games
    • 50% of teens played video games “yesterday”

    Pew Research, Teens, Video Games, and Civics, 2008

    Since 2006, the rate of Internet use for teens aged 12-17 has been 93-94%, with roughly 40% using the Internet “Several Times a Day” (Pew Research, Millenials: A Portrait of Generation Next) The next time you have a student who says they don’t have access to the Internet, stop and consider.  To not teach students to use the Internet (and use it appropriately) is akin to leaving out a crucial job/life skill like reading.  If that same student said they “didn’t have access to books” how would you respond?  Our campuses have both computer labs and libraries. Is it unreasonable for students to be expected to use both if necessary?

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