Mr. Sprankle's Story
Anyone who's witnessed a child playing a video game has seen the intense focus and commitment to breaking through to the next level or beating a previous score. Aligning the joy of gaming with something tedious like practicing math facts clearly helps transform the experience and invites students to learn in an environment they are not only comfortable with but would seek out given the choice. Don't believe me? After introducing my first grade students to the Jet Ski Addition game at Arcademic, many recounted how they continued using the site for up to 2 hours on a Saturday to continue playing the game. What does that mean? That means that on a Saturday, first graders practiced their addition facts for 2 hours at home without anyone making them do it. In all my years of teaching, I've never heard of such a thing!
Though there are plenty of games to check out on Arcademic, I'm going to highlight four of their newest: Grand Prix Multiplication, Drag Race Division, Jet Ski Addition, and Island Chase Subtraction. What makes these games more exciting and engaging than the other offerings at Arcademic is that they are multiplayer games --- students play real, live people rather than just the computer. Students are able to host or join games in a completely safe way and race against other students in real time. This alone got my students revved-up as there is a huge difference between racing a computer and racing another student, but things really got exciting when I taught them how to host their own games in order to invite their friends (that were in the same room with them) into a private contest. In a lab situation, this was easily achieved by having students use their computer number as their user name and then hosting a "private" game by locking it with a shared password. This can easily be achieved in a classroom with several computers, or (as my students did independently) students can call each other up ---from the comfort of their own homes--- and meet each other at the site.
In terms of safety, there's no way for the players to communicate with each other and as long as students don't identify themselves in the user names they choose, players are completely anonymous. I suppose there's always the risk of someone using an "inappropriate" user name, that would then be listed in the games available to join, but I haven't seen that happen. [Arcademic Staff note: inappropriate names are blocked from the games list.]
One thing that sparked great discussion in all the classes was when I had them enter either the division or the subtraction versions of the multiplayer games. Throughout the classes I heard students bemoan the fact that they weren't as strong in those areas as they were in the addition or multiplication. What was interesting was that when they entered the division and subtraction sections, there were hardly any games to join, meaning that students elsewhere in the world were also avoiding these areas. This helped my students feel a bit better. I asked students to tell me how they could get better at subtraction or division.
"Play the games!" they told me.
- Mr. Sprankle
This Success Story was taken from Bob Sprankle's article on HotChalk.com called "Game On".
What Are Teachers Saying?
When I've done flash cards, they aren't in to it. This is more fun and colorful for them. I can tell they are wanting to learn their facts faster as a challenge.
Aligning the joy of gaming with practicing math transforms the experience and invites students to learn in an environment they are comfortable with.
Many of the students play video games all the time at home. This was a way to let them enjoy their playing time but to practice a skill at the same time.
The math games have improved the student's grades in timed tests and have boosted the student's confidence in their math abilities.