Minecraft Math – Deeper Down the Rabbit Hole
by Andrea Jones
Minecraft Math – I knew that I needed to explore further. I could not just put it in front of them and say go. So I swallowed my pride, downloaded the “Pocket Edition” of the game to my iPad, and tried to make sense of it. Unfortunately, after a week of trying I was still struggling with basic navigation. I even had my husband play and try to teach me some basic skills. Google could tell me how, but my skills just could not do. Refusing to be defeated I knew that I had discovered a few key things:
1- It was perfect for area and perimeter. The game is just a bunch of building blocks.
2- The creative mode allowed every resource to be available so students would not have to worry about crafting (creating) supplies. So essentially they could just start a project and have everything they needed and then some.
3- There were signs in the game that students could write on. Boom we got labels!
4- I was going to have give control to the kids……
As a teacher it is hard relinquishing control and letting students completely lead where you are going. After all, there is no telling where my third graders would lead me. Yet, there is a beauty in it as well. They see things and make connections to things that I cannot imagine. This allows them to carry on Math conversations with each other that provides them opportunities to be teachers to their peers.
The first thing I had to do to get started was lay out a basic lesson plan. I researched other lesson plans and ideas online for further guidance. I knew that I wanted to primarily focus on not just area, but finding the area of a figure by decomposing it into multiple rectangular figures and combining their areas. (Gotta love our TEKS!) We had also had a lot of severe weather at the time: tornadoes and flooding (Seriously- pretty much everyday…. Oh the joys of Texas weather), so I wanted to somehow incorporate that as well into Minecraft Math.
From there I decided I would have the students build community safety shelters for natural disasters. Their safety shelters must include: kitchen, sleeping area, pantry for food, storage for emergency supplies, and an entertainment area for children. The entertainment area really allowed students to put their mark on their shelter and peaked their interest because they could do whatever they wanted to roller coasters, Their shelter must have a minimum of four rooms.
The Minecraft math component was that they had to calculate the area of each of the rooms the created. In Minecraft when you are building you use a series of blocks and students would calculate the area of each room by counting the blocks and using the length times width formula. Outside of each room the had to post a sign that had their equation along with the area and label. I also provided a recording sheet where they had to record each of the different rooms they created, the area (along with equation), a place to check of if they had included their sign, and a place to record the total area of their building. To extend the activity, I decided that early finishers could not only add extra details to their shelter, but they could also convert the areas into actualy feet instead of Minecraft blocks. 1 block = 3 feet. These guidelines gave them structure and tasks to complete-keeping their focus on the skills I wanted to reinforce, but at the same time it gave them freedom to be creative and build something that was truly theirs.
This Minecraft Math article is a continuation from Teaching with Minecraft: Confessions of a Third Grade Teacher. Andrea Jones is a 3rd grade teacher at Butterfield Elementary in Sanger ISD, Texas. She excels at using technology to engage her students in critical thinking. Check out the examples on her teacher web page.
Next: A Minecraft Project in Action – Mrs. Jones describes facilitating the project with her students.