mathematics

Final Teacher Thoughts: Polygons & Minecraft

Today I met with Mrs. Kerr and Mrs. Hogue about the Polygons lesson we’d completed in Minecraft with 4th grade students. I feel strongly about reflecting on new lessons and tools after they’ve been completed/used, and this is no different. This is the first day that all 3 of us have had available to sit down and discuss our thoughts.

We began with the pros of the lesson. Both teachers really loved the creativity and engagement seen in students. This comes from observation during the initial play and learn lesson, as well as the polygons lesson. They were amazed to see the different ways that students responded to the tasks provided. They also felt that Minecraft provided chances for a lot of discussion and teaching. Students talked to classmates and partners as they designed. We also had students who knew a lot about Minecraft that assisted classmates as the need arose. Kerr and Hogue were easily able to see how students could assist in the teaching process, as well as allow students to take on more of a leadership role.

Another positive that both teachers enjoyed was how we had structured the lessons. We had set up the first assigned task to be more rigid and strict. There were certain things that needed to be done in a time frame, in this case 3 designed polygons with a sign. The second task was more open ended, and allowed students to be more creative and daring. The second task for this lesson had them designing a home using polygons. Assessing this piece was done in class, as students explained the polygons in the designs to their teachers.

A final pro was that kids without access to internet or computer games at home got to try something new. Minecraft isn’t something default on every computer, nor is it free to get. Students were able to try it in school as part of their learning, and gain experience with a program they may never have seen before.

Not everything can be a pro, of course, so we delved into the cons of the lesson. These will lead to improvement with future lessons. One of our cons was figuring out who wasn’t doing what they should be. Some students enjoyed getting off task and ended up being destructive with classmates. We have since corrected part of this with a good seating chart that lists which account is signed into which computer. Kerr and Hogue are also learning how to recognize characters in game.

Our second con was the invisibility potion. Students find a way around being detected by using the invisibility potion to wreck havoc. I have to say that this isn’t something that I considered when putting together the lesson, though I’m not entirely surprised. I have club kiddos who love utilizing this trick. Since we can’t get rid of the potion itself, we’re going to take some time to work on classroom management techniques in Minecraft. I also informed both teachers that drinking milk makes the potion wear off, and that /ban and /kick commands existed as an option.

The final part of our quick meeting was to focus on needs to cover this summer. The three of us are going to do some in depth work with Minecraft, including me teaching them how to run and manage the server. They want to learn to be independent, so that I don’t have to visit the school to get them set up. We’ll do a lot of practical run throughs to give them practice. Ideally, I should only have to design and upload templates from afar.

We would also like to create a cheatsheet of basic commands, and create at least 1 lesson per subject area for teachers to utilize. Both Kerr and Hogue would love to get more teachers on board with Minecraft in the classroom. In order to do this, we’d like to have a lesson that could be easily implemented into each teacher’s curriculum. As for the basic commands cheatsheet, this is to be used as a refresher/guide for teachers as they work with students. Students are still expected to learn the game through play and problem solving. We’re going to look at potentially meeting in the beginning of July for all of this training.

So far so good with Minecraft use! Our next topic is to tackle science. We will be taking a lesson where students are designing a plant and using Minecraft as the program to model in. It will also give students some more experience using graph paper. Can’t have enough of that!

4th Grade & Minecraft

I’ve been able to find many ways to use Minecraft since I began playing a few years ago- workshops for littles up to middle school, literacy, and more. However, I had yet to get a chance to use it in the classroom with the curriculum. That’s about to change this as the second semester begins.

A fellow colleague and Minecraft lover alerted me to the fact that two 4th grade teachers at Carysbrook Elementary were interested in learning to use the program with their math classes. She invited me to help set up one of the labs to play the game, and also to meet with the teachers yesterday. They would like to use it with some of their upcoming geometry unit.

We have so far planned to get the server set up and a basic quadrant layout for the world maps. I’ll also set up the server with Spigot and some add-ons to make the management easier for the teachers. They have a few ideas already for projects, but nothing completely solid yet. I have showed them how they could work in Minecraft, and they’ll decide in which order to proceed.

For now, they are working on learning to play the game themselves. I gave them access to a couple of the school accounts for this purpose. I have answered any questions they’ve thrown my way, and told them that learning to play the game is meant to be a learning process, but that YouTube is very handy, as are wikis.

For the students, we’ve decided that a play session will be vital first, so we’ve scheduled their classes to get some time with the game before diving into curriculum on the 18th. They’ll be doing this during 100th day of school activities, so the plan is to let the students explore and play before assigning them a challenge to build the number 100 in as many ways as they can think of.

After that, I will return the next week to begin the first math lesson with the students. I am only able to do the morning classes, so they are going to watch what I do and how I troubleshoot, and apply it themselves during the afternoon classes.

I am excited to take on this task, and to see what part of their unit they decide to use first. They are excited to try it with students and find a new way to bring engagement to their classes. I hope to provide a new update soon!

Lesson Plan: Budgeting a Clothing Allowance

This was originally taught to a 5th grade class at the elementary school where I work. I wanted to incorporate real world skills into our Learning Excel section. I needed to introduce simple formulas to the students, as well as teach them how to format their spreadsheet. Since it is real world math skills, I tagged it as mathematics, even though very few standards match up to it. However, I feel that learning how to create a budget is very important, and that this was a good start for the students. This can certainly be adapted for older students as well.

Summary: Students will use the Excel app, Target.com, and Popplet to
create a budget for themselves with a specified clothing allowance.

Lesson plan link here

Twitter Transcript: #MinecraftED on Mathematics

Tonight’s #MinecraftED chat focused on mathematics in Minecraft. If you’re a math teacher, you’ll want to check this one out. There are plenty of teacher examples of math created in Minecraft. Minecraft can go a long way in presenting some of the mathematical concepts in a visual format, as well as applying them to real world concepts.

Check out the chat transcript here

#MinecraftED meets every Tuesday at 8 PM as well. Mark Grundel (@mgrundel) and Garrett.Z (@PBJellyGames) are the founders of the chat, and ones to follow for notices about the chat itself.