Saturday, April 19, 2014

2048

Last year, when we first got the class set of tablets as a part of the RDSB21C project, one of the first things we did was load them up with math and logic games. With the other teacher and I so new to using technology like this in the classroom, we figured it would be an easy way to entice students to use them: we could either start class with some math games, or reward students with games once they had finished their work.

Now that I'm allowing BYOD in class, and students are moving at their own pace through the course, the games have very much fallen to the wayside. Distractions through games are few (hoorah!) and it is only occasionally that students are so caught up on their work that I suggest they choose a math-based game to play for the remainder of class.

But in the past week or so, I've noticed my students getting distracted by what appears to be the latest fad in simple-yet-addictive games: 2048

Playing 2048

From a distance, it looks like a math game: numbered tiles which combine vertically or horizontally to go up in powers of two. Initially, I let them play! Look at them, choosing to play a numbers game when they had some free time! They even argued it: "But Miss! It's a math game!" I was a happy teacher.

But then I started to get suspicious. The last game craze was Flappy Bird (and subsequent Splashy Fish (the fish version) and Flappy 'Stache (the moustache version)). Call me a pessimist, but would my students really pick a math game over Flappy Bird? I had a hard time believing it.

So I tried it. (And yes, it's horribly addicitve.) 

Is there a math component to it? Yes. Would the students be more familiar with the powers of two having played it? Yes. But do you need ability in math to play it? No.

It's a game that's all about patterns, and strategy in how you combine the blocks. But you don't need to know the math to successfully combine the blocks (in fact, most of the time when I play, I don't even see the all combinations before I swipe in a given direction, and am pleasantly surprised when all the blocks reduce down).

This was made all the more obvious when @Brindegazon and @juliecasson introduced me to other, non-math versions of the game. As long as you can memorize which symbols come next in the sequence, you can be just as successful no matter what version you play, numbers or not.

I have to admit, I was disappointed. While pattern recognition is a big part of mathematics, I don't feel I can let my students just play on a whim. Just because it's numbers, doesn't mean it's math.

But wait... there might be another way I can capitalize on my students' interest in 2048. I played around a bit, and discovered how easy it was to make my own version, using images, numbers, words, you name it. Could I make a 2048 game for my students to review concepts? Or maybe vocabulary?

In fact, eduhusband @christheij made his own music note version for his music classes.

So now the wheels are spinning. I'm starting to think of ways I can flip this and have my students create the games - maybe as a part of a final project, or a review activity for the course exam. What can they create - and how can they create it - to better accomplish their learning goals?

I'm excited by the prospect, but not sure where to look next...

Without getting into coding, what have other teachers done in the way of game-creation with their students? What have you found works best? Are there games out there already created by students for other students? I'd love to see them!

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