Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Serious Games Making Maths More Exciting For KS3

Serious Games challenging us to play a better education

A new initiative is being developed for KS3 maths, funded by the Bowland Trust with additional support from the DfES. It is aimed at developing thinking, reasoning and problem solving skills in KS3 pupils. It will consist of an initial 23 case study problems each of which pupils would need to address through open questions; each problem will be able to be explored at various depths.

The work is currently in its development stage, with 15 developers working on the 23 case studies. Each case study will include class room materials together with supporting training materials for teachers specific to that case study. The formal launch will be in the spring of 2008, with the case studies available to schools for the 2008/9 school year.

A generic development package for the whole programme is also being developed which will be made available to teachers who would like to avail themselves of it. It is being designed to help teachers develop skills to make maximum use of the concepts behind the case studies.

Caspian Learning Unveils 3D Adventure Games

Caspian Learning, has been awarded a contract by The Bowland Trust and the DfES to develop two case study problems for UK schools designed to make Key Stage 3 maths more engaging.

The games, Exploring and Applying Algebra - The Velletri Scrolls and Murder at Mega Bank - Applying Mathematics and Proportional Reasoning Skills, are for potential use in the 2008/09 academic year.

The following is an overview of the two adventure games:

Murder at Mega Bank

A 3D learning-based game in which students must use proportional reasoning skills, forensic techniques and investigative methods to identify the culprit(s) of a crime – a daring and ambitious robbery and murder at Mega Bank. The case study will be accompanied by an easy to follow teacher’s support pack.

Learners will begin with information gathering activities in phase one, where they examine the crime scene, identify the key actors in the scenario, identify key unknowns / eliminate irrelevant information and identify forensic and investigative methods to use to progress and test the unknowns.

In lessons 3 and 4, learners move on to an analysis and interpretation phase, where they test analyse and interpret samples, apply forensic testing, mathematical modelling, explaining and illustrating to assess the evidence and draw conclusions.

The Velletri Scrolls

The Da Vinci Code meets Lara Croft, The Velletri scrolls is a 3D learning-based game where learners need to assemble clues, unravel codes and solve problems to find the fictional riches of the Emperor Augustus.

In phase one, learners must gather evidence and tools to interpret maps, papers and decipher mathematical problems. In phase two, learners use the elements gathered in phase one, as well as analytical thinking and algebraic skills to solve problems that progress the scenario.

The case study supports different levels of difficulty, with the maths problems themselves containing different solutions, with more reward given for more sophisticated solutions. This means that students can follow their own path through, and are not precluded from progressing. The application will record any areas of difficulty and will feedback to the students and teacher.

Initiative Overview

In September 2006, the Bowland Trust issued an open invitation to submit ideas for case studies that would help to develop in pupils the skills of thinking, reasoning, analysing, interpreting and problem solving. Caspian was awarded a contract to develop two case studies for the project, selected alongside 14 other companies out of over 200 proposals.

Caspian’s technology is based on proven learning principles. The case studies use 3D learning-based avatar games where different thinking processes will be explicitly embedded within the gameplay and mapped closely to curriculum objectives.

Students will be measured automatically by the applications, giving teachers a precise performance measurement for each learner.

The case studies will use and complement mathematical topics within KS3. It will be for teachers to decide whether they wish to use one or more of the case studies in their teaching, and at what point in the Key Stage. The case studies will act as an extra resource that will stimulate pupils’ interest to such an extent that teachers will actively want to use them.

Chris Brannigan, CEO, Caspian Learning comments: “In developing these games we wanted to bring the excitement and glamour of adventure gaming into the world of maths, to reverse the common thought that it’s a boring subject.”Its vital pupils see maths as a relevant and interesting subject – the UK has relatively few A-level and undergraduate students in maths precisely because they’ve been turned off the subject at school. Our games will help teachers looking for that extra something to keep a class enthused.”