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TED Talk Tuesday: Tom Wujec Build a Tower, Build a Team

The group that consistently fails at the marshmallow task: recent graduates of business school. Business students are trained to find the single right plan and then execute it. The problem with this strategy is that they wait for the last minute to add their marshmallow to the top of the structure and when their plan fails, it is a crisis. The group that consistently succeeds at the marshmallow task: recent graduates of kindergarten. Kindergarten students start with a model and they build successive prototypes of their structure. They always keep their marshmallow on top. They have multiple opportunities to refine their structure until it is working. With each version of the prototype, students are getting instant feedback about what works and what doesn’t and they can adjust accordingly. Kids don’t spend time trying to be CEO of Spaghetti Inc. They aren’t jockeying for power, they are working together creatively and having fun. What stands out to me about the data that Tom Wujec shares, is not that architects and engineers build the best towers (as he says, we would expect that), but that kindergartners are not very far behind. This makes me wonder about what important things we are deprogramming kids to do as we send them through the education system. If the education system was really working, I would expect that adults would be able to construct the best, highest towers. I would expect that those with the most education would build the best towers. But as we see, this isn’t the case. In school we teach students that everything has a correct answer. Sometimes that answer means filling in the “c” on a bubble test, and sometimes it means getting your teacher to nod and say “that’s right”. School has become a game of “guess what the teacher is thinking”.  As a result, we have students who can come up with one correct solution to any problem. In the real world, we often need more than one right solution. Many times we need several solutions and creative thinking applied to the problem. Our most recent example of this is the BP oil spill. I can’t help but wonder what great solutions kindergartners would come up with that adults aren’t even considering because we have been deprogrammed to think that way. What does this mean for schools? It means that we need more opportunities for students to explore multiple solutions to a problem, it means that we offer kids the chance to discuss and stop asking the one answer questions all the time. Sometimes there is one correct answer, but in life that isn’t always the case. Students need to be given the chance to explore both options. (As a side note, it is interesting to me that when the incentive of a prize was offered, not one team had a standing structure. I am working my way through Daniel Pink’s book Drive right now and it mirrors what he says in the book.)

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Hooda Math: math fact practice that feels like fun

Posted by admin | Posted in Fun & Games, Knowledge (remember), Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Websites | Posted on 09-06-2014

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Hooda Math: Practice math facts and have fun

Flappy factors: learn math playing games

What it is:  Hooda Math is a fantastic collection of math games that give students the opportunity for math fact practice while having fun. The games are based on other addicting games like Flappy Birds and 2048. Instead of just playing the games to see how far they can get, students also get some built-in fact practice. For example, in Flappy Factors, students maneuver a bird through a maze of pipes. Each pipe has an integer on it, students must fly through the correct factor of a target multiple that is given. Students must avoid the pipe with the incorrect integer. As students advance through the game, a progress report is generated that can be emailed to a teacher or a parent. The Hooda Math site has been created for a variety of platforms…perfect for a BYOD classroom!

How to use Hooda Math in your classroom: Hooda Math is organized by category types: Mobile games, Shopkeeper games, Geometry games, Logic games, Number games, Physics Games, Growing games, Building games, and Escape games. The games can also be organized by grade level, subject, or category. There are over 500 games in all, ensuring something for everyone in kindergarten through high school.

Students at Anastasis LOVE mobile games. When Flappy Birds came out, they were often spending hours (truly!) playing these games in their free time. Hooda Math games are a great way for students to practice math facts and skills while they are playing. Math becomes significantly less challenging when facts become second nature. Hooda Math games are a great way for students to practice their math facts without hours of flash cards. Math practice becomes fun and the challenge is not just in figuring out the trick to the game, it is also unlocking the building blocks of math.

When I taught a computer class, I often had students lament that they would NEVER be able to learn to touch type. I often asked these students, “do you play video games? Do you have to look at the controller when you play to see what to press next?” They always answered, “No! I would lose if I had to look at the controller.” I would follow-up by asking them how they memorized what to do to the controller to win. Light. Bulb. Moment. The same is true for these math games. Students can play these games like they would other popular games, if they know their math facts, they are more likely to “live” longer and win the game.

I learned my math facts when my third grade teacher made up rhymes and a Chinese jumprope game where you had to know your facts to stay “in.” We learned our multiplication tables in no time! (If anyone knows this game, I would LOVE to remember how to play it, leave the link/directions in a comment below.) I suspect that Hooda Math games could have the same outcomes for your students. When the facts are the key to winning, there is a different motivation to know them (beyond just completing the worksheet/test).

In a one to one device environment, students can play the games that build skills where they need them. Students can play at their own level. In the one or two computer classroom, use Hooda Math as a math center rotation. Students can travel from center to center in small groups and take turns playing the games that meet their individual needs.

Be sure to pass on Hooda Math to your student’s families. It is a great way to practice at home and over summer break.

Tips: Don’t forget to have your students send you the progress report at the end. This helps you keep track of their progress without the need for worksheets.

Are you using Hooda Math in your classroom? Leave a comment below and share the ways that you use it with students!

Rodan + Fields Consultant

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