Friday, July 11, 2014

MathLand Revisited

It's been 2 years since I posted on MathLand, but I've noticed that people are visiting this site, so I thought I'd post an update.

I finished my 5th year of gamifying and 13th year of teaching mathematics to students with emotional impairment and went to work as the Math Accessibility Specialist for Michigan's Integrated Mathematics Initiative (Mi)^2, a state initiative supporting and promoting high quality mathematics education for students who struggle and students with disabilities. It is a huge change of pace, full of new challenges, and I, while I very much miss my students and the classroom, am loving the opportunities this new job offers including meeting excellent educators around Michigan and the country, and working with them to provide access to the math curriculum for all students.

 Recently, I've joined the Board of Directors for Aspiring Games Foundation out of Lansing, under the leadership of our president, Becky Palmer-Scott. This welcome, but unexpected, turn of events, has brought two of my original classroom projects back to life: Junkyard Wars and MathLand.

This blog is about MathLand, but Junkyard Wars is a project-based learning unit I did twice a year where students built machines out of unconventional materials (paper, metal, plastic, wood, foam, etc.) and competed to see whose machine functioned best. We made catapults, ramps, cargo boats, speed boats, and elevators, among other projects. It was a fun, hands on, and effective way to engage students and to teach and learn mathematics in context.

MathLand did not get any major overhauls since my last post describing how it works, but it, and gamification in education in general, have gained some attention in the last few years.

For a long time, MathLand felt like my own little project to address my own personal needs, but it seems that my challenges are many people's challenges, and people are interested in hearing about them, which makes sense now that I stop and think about it.

If anyone out there is reading this and is looking for guidance on how to begin to do this, please contact me! My email is I'm happy to share my process, my materials, my reading lists, or whatever might be useful. I'd also be happy to share about Junkyard Wars.

Here's another thing - if anyone out there is reading this and has their own game-based or play-based solutions to challenges such as low motivation, chronic attendance, learned helplessness, underachievement, I'd love to hear about that, too. Not just as a curious teacher, but also as someone whose job it is to find innovative, effective ways to improve mathematics outcomes for all students. Thanks for reading!