Friday, 15 May 2015

Learning geometry with the help of Minecraft

As a teacher teaching in an International school my students come from all over the world. It is so rewarding for all the many reasons  - I know all of you know (if you don't know what I'm taking about - take the plunge and teach in an International School). On the other hand, it can be challenging as students come to the maths class with very diverse mathematics backgrounds. Being an IB school, we do not 'stream' students as you found find in other school across the UK, so it is essential for me to make sure that each of my students are being challenged in creative ways every time they enter my classroom, but particularly so at the start of a new unit.

So... the plan is?
At the start of this geometry unit, it was essential for me that students had a common understanding of vocabulary as we progressed through the unit. I created a wordlist (without definitions) of geometry terminology that I shared with the students in class.

I then asked them to represent their math terminology in Minecraft. They created a few worlds and decided amongst themselves what terms of the list they will build. I just made sure in the end that all the terminology was covered. As they were building and came across something they didn't know, they had to find out (from anybody or anything - Internet, etc. except for me), but they could use me to confirm their understanding. As they were building, I would prompt them with certain questions pertaining to what they were building at that moment in time. In the back of their minds, students had to keep the definition in mind, because the end product would be a Minecraft representation of the term and it had to be accompanied by a definition. Students then had to put these together then define in the accompanying video that they made on iMovie. This then acts a 'glossary' or wordlist for the unit.

What happened in reality?
As we know about students, what we plan for almost always has a twist to it and that is what I love about teaching! The students did what was expected of them (of course), but then they stretched themselves so much further. For example, as students were constructing pyramids, I was asking them what the differences were between triangular based and square based pyramids. They thought about it and build it. As I came round to them again - they were taking inspiration from ancient pyramids and comparing it - the Mayan step pyramids and the Egyptian pyramids. They added so much depth to their own understanding! 

The final product(please note that I did not edit anything, so there are some errors, but I think it is so great, it's worth sharing!) of one of my classes.

The verdict: My initial list given to students were too long and if you are going to do this, I would suggest you stay within a particular group of shapes at a time: such as polygons or quadrilaterals and add it in the end to the movie together. My mixed up wordlist created a lot of confusion for weaker students.