Monday, 23 July 2012

Lesson Sketch: The Money Game - Adding and subtracting from negatives

This is an adaptation of the bank balance activity found here. Basically students pick up a card and either add the money on the card to their account or take it away. To make it a little more interesting and to force them in to negatives (what I wanted them to be practicing), I made it in to a board game. The board is in the final slides of the presentation below:

Link to document       Link to cards and balance sheet (the larger amounts are for the purple, 'paid in' and the red, 'paid out' cards)

The game is kinda rubbish; there's no choice and it just involves calculation after calculation. However, I thought I'd take a leaf out of Shawn Cornally's book and leave it that way:
The point of Laser Pandas was to be a bad game. My premise is, and always will be, that teachers take far too much of the cognitive load onto themselves. We get caught up in the minutia of lesson planning and quickly forget that this is where all the thinking is done.
My students took to Laser Pandas quite willingly, but for the wrong reasons. As you can imagine, teenagers in a school will flock to nearly anything that doesn’t smell like sitting in a seat and listening. This is embarrassing for what we call “education”, and only good for me because even my most paltry attempts at fun will be considered monumental by comparison.
Here’s the point: The students are to create new rules for the game. They are to make it more accurate.
My game worked pretty much exactly how he has described; the kids enjoyed it because it didn't look like a normal, boring lesson, and the second half of the lesson, when I asked them to improve the game, was where much of the reasoning skills and creativity was shown.

I was really impressed with the sort of improvements they made to the game, from the simple to implement, such as 'calculator tax' (you can use a calculator whenever you want but it costs £10 each time) and cards with interesting maths puzzles, to complete game overhauls, such as having wage and bill cards (which you get at the start but take effect each turn) and having the dual goals of ending with most money AND getting married/having children/obtaining the material goods to look after them.

I enjoyed teaching this lesson. I am embarrassed that this crappy game was more appealing than my regular lessons. One day I want this not to be the case.