I have written about Minecraft in education before, following a trial at my school with Year 7 boys who built models of different types of bridges. This year I set a task for another class of Year 7 students in which the boys found it particularly engaging. Many of the boys had played the game before and a few were ‘expert’ users. It happens that these boys usually don’t experience success in the Maths class – they struggle with some concepts and despite offering a range of different activities, often don’t seem to enjoy Maths. Minecraft classes allowed these boys to experience success and share their talents and experience with their peers – finally they were excited about Maths!
The task was to create their name in a Minecraft world, using the familiar cubes that we deemed to be 1m x 1m x 1m in volume. They then had to calculate the surface area and volume of their name and send me a screenshot. Some students had not played Minecraft before, so there was some terrific sharing of expertise and discovery learning going on. As students watched their peers constructions take shape they changed their designs, incorporating different colours and textures. As the environment changed (day became night and it started snowing in some worlds) students sought out flaming torches and built verandas to protect their constructions.
Surface area and volume can be easily taught with a textbook and, for the more adventurous, going outside to measure real-life objects in the school yard. However, Minecraft allowed me to engage some of my more difficult students and give them opportunities to shine in the classroom. Now I need to start thinking how I can teach algebra with Minecraft! Have you had success with Minecraft in your classroom? What outcomes have you achieved with game-based learning?
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