The Next Mission

The 2011/2012 school year will go down as the year of the Flipped Classroom for me. This was without a doubt the most exciting year of my short five year career. I did things that I never did in my first four years. I took risks, I collaborated, and I reinvented my teaching. In my initial years I worked hard just to stay above water like most new teachers. My energy was focused on lesson planning, creating assessments and providing feedback to those assessments in a timely fashion. Yet I didn’t feel I was really getting anywhere…I was not meeting my students needs…..something was not right. A change needed to be made to revolutionize my classroom and that change for me turned out to be the Flipped Classroom.

The Flipped Classroom changed my practice more than I could have ever imagined. Yet as I continue to refine and reimagine ways to use my additional classroom time I feel that this journey is ready to go into a new direction. I love what the Flipped Classroom has done for my practice, don’t get me wrong. I now have more time to engage my students in class with rich learning activities, and as a teacher I have grown a great deal professionally. But what is next mission?

The Gamified Flipped Classroom

Much like the Flipped Classroom, Gamification is a relatively new idea. Gamification simply turns your classroom into a game. Take a look at this InfoGraphic to get an idea:

Here is what I like about it:

  • Who doesn’t love a game? As a teacher, when I say ‘game’ in class those students who I have to prod on a daily basis usually come to life. Why not make this a daily occurrence?
  • Failure is ok! Think of a video game……. Failure is normal. Super Mario misses his jump and falls off the world, only to come back to life at the beginning of the level…..We have all played that one level where we failed time and time again before we achieved success….. Shouldn’t learning be the same way? If a student struggles to learn a concept shouldn’t they learn from their mistakes until they master the learning, much like players do in a video game? After all if you aren’t failing you aren’t trying hard enough, or maybe you need to move to the next level. Failure is a part of learning!
  • You can learn and play at the same time! Play based learning is something that our society has drifted away from. Play is now structured, little kids have play dates where adults organise when and how the play will occur. Why not take away from structure in the classroom and add a game to see what amazing things students come up with…….we might be surprised.
  • Competition is healthy. I want my students to compete with one another to look for innovative ways to increase/improve their learning and therefore improve their standing in the game. The game could have a leaderboard where students could check in and what others are doing to better understand the curriculum and be successful in the game.

My initial thought

I am Settlers of Catan geek and proud of it. For those of you not familiar with Settlers of Catan it is a German strategy board game where players earn resource cards to take over the board. This game combines probability, negotiation, planning, decision making, and risk into what I believe is an excellent game…….

So, why not make Settlers of Catan my classroom……perhaps Settlers of Mathlandia!!!!!

In the first class or two of the course I would have students play the game, research the game, and try out different game variations. I want them to get comfortable with it and come up with effective strategies. Once students have a strong understanding and have gotten a chance to play, then the game truly begins…..

In Settlers of Catan players build settlements on the board and gain resource cards if their settlement matches the number on the dice. In my version I think I would eliminate the dice. Instead students would play the game by completing activities in my classroom. Here are some examples:

Quizzes (Mastery Model where students need to get  > 70%)

  • 0/10 – 6/10: no resource card
  • 7/10: pick up a sheep resource card
  • 8/10: pick up a sheep or a wood resource card
  • 9/10: pick up a sheep, wood, or brick resource card
  • 10/10: pick up any resource card

Students would be able to take the quiz, similar to what they do now, as many times as they want to try to improve their standing.

 Math Labs

  • Students would do labs centred around the curriculum but in a Settler of Catan theme.
    • Create a trebuchet to knock down an enemy’s castle, determine the optimal angle to hit castle x km away, determine the equation of the quadratic function…..
  • Students completing lab would be graded in a similar scale to the quizzes and again would have opportunity to improve their standing. Since this activity is significantly larger perhaps the reward is greater.


  •  Currently I use journals for random prompts, unit summaries, and quiz corrections. In the game students could use the journals to discuss game strategy, resource card goals, and game predictions.

For the last 10 minutes of each class students would receive their cards from the banker and engage in the game until they have exhausted their cards. As the year progresses I would encourage students to try different game variations. We could turn it into a tournament format where each game would last a couple weeks and then students would square off against different opponents. Or perhaps for the last month students could develop their own game.

I am thinking out loud here about possible opportunities to engage my students and make my classroom and more enjoyable place. I still really need to wrap my head around Gamification but this is my first idea………My hope is by the summer I’ll have something concrete to begin working on…..What do you think?


About flippingmath

Math Teacher, Flipper, Blue Jays Fan
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7 Responses to The Next Mission

  1. Pingback: @math_johnson « mathboyle

  2. I think you have a great idea there. Any chance to bring fun into a math class while still working on meeting outcomes is awesome! Would the game only be for certain lessons or for all? Looking forward to hearing more


    • flippingmath says:

      I think the game would carry a theme through a lesson, but it would be the projects, labs, quizzes, tests (boss) where students would earn cards for the game. It may be way out there……Not sure if doing something online may be easier than a physical board game. Online you may be able to keep score and have a leaderboard easier….

  3. So do your students work at their own pace? Do you set a minimum amount of material that they must get through in a grading period? If a students gets through with the material early, what do they do? I’m going to flip my math classes next year, so any information you can give me is greatly appreciated!

    • flippingmath says:

      My students work at their own pace, within reason. I set a test deadline each unit similar to how I would tell students when the test was going to be before. If students are ready to write their test before the test deadline they can, if a student is not ready for the test deadline I also give a little leeway. Usually I require that student to come in for some extra help so we can get them back on track. If I told a student they could have an infinite amount of time to do each unit we obviously wouldn’t get through the course.

      If a student gets through the material early they are free to move onto our next unit of study. I use unit packages which I have made on my own that dictate what students need to accomplish each unit. If a student finishes the course early they can spend additional time studying for the final exam, do re-tests, or even move onto the next course (although nobody has taken me up on the next course offer yet).

      I hope this helps. Feel free to send any other questions you have!

  4. Ms. Nguyen says:

    I love this gaming idea. Please keep us updated during the summer on your project! I would love to incorporate something like this into my classroom but I am a first time teacher and going to be a first time flipper. So one thing at a time! Please do keep us posted throughout the year if you are really planning on this because I am very interested in this idea!

    • flippingmath says:

      My colleague Carolyn @okmbio and I are heading to MIT for a gaming boot camp where we’ll be learning a lot about gamification. When I get back in late July there will definitly be a blog post coming out! Thanks for the comments and keep in touch!

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