Wednesday, February 26, 2014

First Foray into Curriculum: Area and Perimeter with 3rd Graders

This morning we made math a little more exciting! Mrs. Smith's 3rd grade class met me in the lab to work on demonstrating their knowledge of area and perimeter, using Minecraft as the assessment tool.

Yesterday I met with her class to discuss the rules and expectations of behavior within Minecraft so we would not have to waste our lab time with this part. (I really think this is one of the most important parts of using Minecraft with students - you must involve them in the discussion about what constitutes appropriate behavior within the game. Digital citizenship is a vital skill, and this is one way to reinforce it.)

At 8 am sharp, the class entered the lab. I had them sit on the floor by the projector screen so we could get ready for the assignment. I demonstrated how to get to Minecraft, which is hidden in the Program Files without a desktop link (less distraction to students in the lab who are not using Minecraft). About half the class had no PC Minecraft experience, so I showed the basic skills needed to work within a creative world.

Then we did a quick review of the project goal: create a house with a fenced-in yard, find the area of the floor of your house and the perimeter of the fence. To demonstrate, I made a very small floor and we talked about how to find its area. I placed a sign nearby and wrote "The area of my house is 18 square meters". Then I created a tiny fenced-in yard, and we discussed how to measure its perimeter. (One interesting point was we had to decide what constituted one unit. Was it the fence post? Was it an entire section of fence including two posts and the wood boards inbetween? The students decided that one fence post would be one unit since it only took up one square on the ground, so we went with that.) We then calculated the perimeter of my fence, and I created a sign that showed our answer.

After this quick demonstration, Mrs. Smith had the students who knew how to play sit at the computers first, leaving at least one chair on either side of them. Then the newbies filled in the empty spots so that they could easily ask for help from one of their peers. (This worked out really well!)

The students logged in and claimed a spot near the spawn point. Some kids decided to work with a partner, while others chose to work alone. We had to redirect behavior a few times, but overall the class did a great job of getting right to work and staying focused. They created some really nice houses, but were not able to finish in the time allotted. We will meet again tomorrow to finish up.

The students greeting Mrs. Smith in-game


The neighborhood so far

Once the students left, I visited each house and checked their math. I left an information block giving feedback about their calculations for each student to see in the morning. Several students correctly figured their areas and perimeters, but we will need to do some reteaching tomorrow. In cases where I was unsure how the student calculated their area but the answer was feasible, I left a note block asking them to see me tomorrow to demonstrate how they did their math.


One example of a feedback sign



Today was so exciting for the students! I hope we continue to expand this pilot into other areas of our curriculum.


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