Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gaming in Maths Education

Firstly, apologies for my lack of postings recently.  It's been for a variety of reasons related to the job I accepted at the beginning of the year as a high school teacher in a remote Australian Indigenous community--new job workloads ect.

One of our challenges in this part of the world is to engage our students successfully and in a way in to which they can readily relate.  Most of the high school students have not been exposed to the rest of Australia let alone the world and this poses challenges when it comes to providing authentic learning tasks and assessment.

What does engage the vast majority of the kids here are computer games and as a maths teacher, I recently discovered Manga High and its array of games and learning pathways.  Manga High offer games and learning opportunities that can be specifically targeted as each student's level without them being aware that they are playing at a higher or lower level than the rest of their class.  This is particularly important for indigenous students as "shame" is an important part of their culture.  In playing Manga High all students are able to achieve and there is no shame from being at a higher or lower level.
Manga High also offers some very challenging games that will also allow students to develop strong skills and automaticity which should better prepare students for more sophisticated mathematical concepts later in their schooling.  The maths is aligned to the new Australian curriculum for K to 10.
Manga High provides strong analytics for teachers so that you are able to see how each of your students are progressing at any time throughout the gaming process as all of the assessment is formative and continual.

So far I have used the games in class with an interactive whiteboard (IWB) and the kids are intrigued and engaged when they play them as a class.
Next term I will be trialling individual student use, and making this available during lunch time for students who volunteer to undertake gaming at this time.  Half of the students will be able to play any maths games they wish while the other randomly chosen half will be provided with Manga High accounts and their games set at their beginning level.  All students will be pre and post tested and the relative gains in their maths knowledge and application will be measured.  I plan to run this trail for a full school term.

My thanks to Mohit Midha from Manga High for allowing us to trail his product in this manner.  Mohit also tells me that they are working on an online multi-player game at the moment and this may well be released later this year--I'll be keen to see how that works and what it does for student engagement and achievement.

It will be interesting to see just how well the student engagement lasts and just what gains are made during the trial.

More soon.