Monday, January 14, 2013

Minecraft in Math Class

So I had a crazy idea to use Minecraft as a tool in a Mathematics project with my Grade 6 classes. It didn't take a lot of convincing my team teachers, and I assured them that I knew exactly what I was doing and would lead them through the process. Truth is, I had a rough idea after experimenting with the 5D Dynamos last year and in my mind, there were sprouts of potential for what could be. I was excited.

We started off with a brief task outline which we shared with the students. The document covers the basics of what we proposed. Of course, the project has taken weeks of hard work and has experienced an evolution of its own along the way. Follow us on this journey to see where we end up.

What does the project entail?
1. Students create a floor plan of their dream building using grid paper and markers and a scale of 1:1 square units.
2. The "government", her majesty of Minecraft presiding, approves the blueprints (with official government stamps) and/or suggest alterations.
3. Mincraft is used as virtual lego to build a model of a planned structure.
4. Class discusses and creates the grading rubrics and checklists for the final video project.
5. A scripted video screen capture tour of the completed structure is filmed in Minecraft and edited in iMovie, encouraging students to think about how their "build" incorporates and uses ratio, proportion, spatial awareness and scale.

Desired Learning Outcomes (Ratio & Proportion, Geometry & Measurement)

- Mathematics Benchmark 6.RP.1 - Understand the concept of a ratio and use ratio language to describe a ratio relationship between two quantities
- Mathematics Benchmark 6.RP.3d. - Use ratio reasoning to convert measurement units; manipulate and transform units appropriately when multiplying or dividing quantities.
- Mathematics Benchmark 6.G.4 - Represent three-dimensional figures using nets made up of rectangles and triangles, and use the nets to find the surface area of these figures. Apply these techniques in the context of solving real-world and mathematical problems.

Why use Minecraft?
1. To have fun and be creative - engagement factor and/or curiosity levels are high for most students. 
2. To be effective and efficient - Minecraft is a fast and effective tool that allows students to quickly create a visual representation, to scale and using different building block materials, from their blueprints or floor plans.
3. To apply digital technology modeling tools that align with out Middle School goal of "Improving student learning and assessment through the responsible and balanced use of technology".
4. To explore an essential idea in 21st century education. The idea that using technology to complete learning tasks faster, fancier, fitter is fantastic, but using technology to create new learning tasks in and within themselves for synthesizing and displaying our learning is where the true Bloom's Digital Taxonomy of creation comes into play.
5. To examine the use of play and student approach to game-based learning in Middle School.

Stay tuned because up next, you can follow the project stages as the students of Grade 6 explore the world of ratio and proportion through Minecraft.

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