This year our research project is on the gamification, “The Math Games” of a CPM classroom. Through this process, we hope to observe changes in inclusion, positive attitudes, active participation, supportive teammates, improved efficacy and increased value of team roles as they are a key component to a good team. The good news is that we have found it to be a very effective tool for behavior modification and improving our team dynamics. The bad news is that I am a very impatient person and perhaps slightly ADD so when I went to a workshop about having students perform math while standing at whiteboards, I had to try it! Now The Math Games acquired an additional component as part of the investigation.
Shortly after I attended the workshop, my vice-principal gave me a $100 gift card because my kids did so well on our state test the year before, so off I went to Home Depot. They have a 4’ x 8’ tile board that I cut into two sections and voila – I had a two foot wide, four foot high whiteboard for every team. At first I just attached them to my walls with push pins and tape, but as soon as I found a decent placement for them out came the drill and a box of screws. Of course whiteboards are useless without markers so $20 on Amazon and some $.69 plastic single gang electrical boxes from Home Depot gave me a bunch of markers and marker holders.
A 50-minute workshop only gives you the ideas but the devil is in the details. I have tried a bunch of different configurations and processes with varying success. At first I took away all of the chairs and forced the kids to stand around their boards and work their way through the activities. This was incredibly successful! By integrating the new process into The Math Games weekly goals, the transition was fast and painless. I had kids doing and succeeding at math that had previously refused to do any work at all. After a few weeks, I was so happy with their progress that I put desks back into groups in front of their boards in hopes that some students would be working while seated while the others would be at the board. Nope, old habits kicked in and students retreated. So another rearrangement with just two desks at the board and four chairs around it and then another change and another. It seems that just the process of doing the same thing in a different way leads to less boredom.
Overall, I have found that when students are standing they are more engaged and it is easier for teams to present their work, which has led to more students doing more math. Of course, there are challenges. But so far, I believe that it has been worth the effort and money. As I continue this vertical math journey through this school year by constantly trying new things and finding new and, hopefully, stimulating ways to do math standing up, The Math Games will continue to play an integral part. While things are constantly changing in my class, the structure of the weekly Math Games team goals helps to keep the students motivated to attack each new adventure with vigor and excitement.