Reflections on Wii Olympic Math

Last week I submitted my lesson plan about using the Wii, and Mario and Sonic Winter games, to teach a combined unit on decimal operations and central tendency.  Reading that post first will put this post in context and is probably important to have this post make sense.  You can read that post here and then come back for my reflections on the whole process.

Due to time restraints, I was not able to create the introductory iMovie trailer to describe the project, nor to have the student do the project about designing their own event.  I know that this component is important so I will have it ready for the fall when I use this activity again.   I decided that for this run it was more important to have the students learn the basic skills rather than have them focus on the bigger picture and come out of the unit unable to perform the basic skills of the unit.  Teaching is all about time, and although I was able to start this early by looking ahead in what was to come, there was still not enough time available to include all the components I wanted.

The students pulled together to cheer on their classmates.  It was refreshing to see how they cheered on every student even the one coming in fourth. My room has 8 tables so we designated 4 tables as front tables and 4 as back tables.  The students kept track themselves of which tables needed to be up and who had not had a chance to go, without any arguing or students trying to take extra turns.  Many students wanted extra turns but no one took one, which really impressed me.  It was also great to see some students who do not excel academically shine in their use of the Wii and this pride translated into them being more willing to try during the math components.  I had students who do not have regular attendance show up every day during the Wii Olympic math and students who are usually late for class sprinting to ensure they were ready to go.  It was also exciting to see those students who had no experience with the Wii become more proficient and begin to take part in discussions about the Wii.  The team building and excitement that this unit inspired made me decide to start out my new classes in the fall with this unit to try to help foster class cohesion.

I learned something very important about the integrating of technology into a classroom as well as I started this project.  I learned that one should never only include the technology in the first day of the unit, the content needs to be there as well.  The first day I worked on activating prior knowledge and demonstrated how to use the Wii.  We then started gathering our first set of data by playing the team bobsled.  It took the whole class to gather the data with 32 students so I told them that we would use our data the following day.  Needless to say, my students went home and told their parents we did nothing but play the Wii all class, true but out of context, so I had some angry parent phone calls that I needed to return.  The parents were all fine after I explained the purpose of the Wii but the initial contact was not very happy due to their students playing video games in class.

The unit itself went very well.  There were a few occasions when a mode was presented in the data and only one occasion of an outlier when I elected to not have a student fill an extra seat in a run to allow the time to be much slower than all the rest.  I was a bit concerned that once we left the team events we would have 30 or 32 pieces of data to work with, but with scaffolding all students were able to work with the measures of central tendency.  All four classes decided they would rather work harder with many pieces of data if that meant everyone had an opportunity to try all events, than work with fewer data points because fewer students got to try.

One of the most wonderful unexpected things that happened in this unit was that the unit ran itself.  The students took charge of making sure the game was ready, making sure everyone had turns, making sure that all parts of central tendency were calculated that it freed me up to work with those students who needed extra support.  I was able to just check in with those students who needed reassurance but was also able to sit and work in a small group with those students who were struggling to ensure they understood what they need to do.  By the end of the unit, all students were able to demonstrate at least a basic understanding of decimal operations and central tendency.

Some issues that came up due to the nature of the data revolved around the concept of mode.  There were very few times where mode occurred and it only every had the number show up twice.  This created the misconception for some students that mode meant a number that happened two times, even though they could tell you it was a number that happened the most.  As a result, these students would write down the number that happened twice as the mode for a set of data totally ignoring numbers that happened more frequently.  I know it isn’t possible to force the game to create modes with higher frequency so I will have to address that concept through my entrance or exit tickets in the fall.

Overall, I believe that this unit plan did the two major things I wanted it to do.  The first thing it did was to combine units together to allow more time for students to consolidate their knowledge about the concepts in questions.  Many students need more practice in order to be able to consolidate their learning and combining units together made it possible to provide those students with the time they needed.  The second thing it did was to excite students about learning math, students were engaged, on task, and accomplishing what I needed them to do with little fuss or complaints.  Using the Wii allowed me to provide my students with a context for why these skills could be important outside the mathematics classroom.  One thing I did not expect was the sense of class that this activity produced.  The students all worked together to accomplish something and encouraged each other resulting in the ability of the class to do more.  As a teacher the idea that your class can become more than the sum of its parts is an awesome one.  To experience it was really awe-inspiring.   It has made me excited to start school again in the fall even as this school year draws to the close.  I can’t wait for the improved version of this activity.


So the gamification begins

To start my gamification of my mathematics classroom I purchased a set of excel spreadsheets from Mr Matera.  Then I decided to create a trailer for my mathematics class to watch the first week.

You can also see other blog posts which have referenced this quest:

Choose my own SoLT adventure-again 

Passion and Creativity Quotient

Reflections on CEP810

I first sought out the CEP program at MSU to finish off my professional development credits because the master’s program I was finishing had no mention of technology use in the mathematics classroom.  Technology was just something useful, when it worked, for having 12 people from around the world work together as a learning collective.  It was how we presented what we had learned to our cohort, but never did we look at how to use technology to extend student learning in the mathematics classroom.  It was a lack I felt deeply, so I decided to start at MSU.

Starting at MSU in May was difficult, to say the least.  School here in Canada is not yet finished for the year, so I was faced with year end marking, exam preparation, report cards, ELL Benchmarks, Ends statements and everything else that goes into the last two months of school.  On top of that I started late at MSU so I had to play catch up, trying to finish week 0, 1 and 2 all at the same time.  Then to make my life even more complex I was in the last two months of my master’s program here working on my last two courses as well as finishing my 140 page capstone project.  With all that  going on in my life as well as Physiotherapy on a dislocated knee, I was ever so grateful that we looked at the work of Allen (2012) about how to “Get Things Done”.  While my family and coworkers find it a bit silly when I whip out my phone to update the things they ask me to do into my to do lists, I find that I have managed not to miss doing any of the jobs I needed to do.  I did have to ask for one extension, but by looking at the list in my calendar which had no room left to add items; I was able to see that I would need the time in advance instead of waiting until I had already missed a deadline.

Before entering the program at MSU I was focused on getting a new tool and then figuring out what I could do with it.  While I still like new toys, I am now focusing more on what I want to do and then figuring out how the technology can support those learning goals. In my last master’s program we had already looked at the work of Shulman (1986) and address his concept of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK).  We traced this evolution of PCK but only as it has evolved in the field of mathematics education.  I was surprised when I first saw the image for TPACK (Kereluik, Mishra, & Koehler, 2011). because it reminded me so much of the work I had already done with PCK and nested circles of influence in a complex adaptive system (Davis, Sumara, & Luce-Kapler, 2008).  TPACK now seems to be the link that I was missing in my previous program; how technology interacts with the pedagogy and the content to support students in their learning.

So where do I go from here?  I have found mathematics the hardest subject to authentically integrate technology into.  My quest, and yes I like quests, is to figure out what tasks lend themselves to integrating with technology and figuring out in what ways can I repurpose existing tools to support those tasks.  As well, never far from my mind, is my ultimate life goal to create a MMORPG that has mathematical skills and mathematical reasoning authentically embedded into the core of the gameplay.  As I said in my final NLP blog, I am ambitious.  Learning is a process that never ends, and that is the project that drives my professional learning at this point in my career.  It is always good to have a goal.

Allen, D. (2012, October 31) The Art of Stress-Free Productivity: David Allen at TEDx Claremont Colleges .  Retrieved from

Davis, B., Sumara, D., & Luce-Kapler, R. (2008). Engaging Mind Changing Teaching in Complex Times second edition. New York: Routledge.

Kereluik, K., Mishra, P. & Koehler, M.J. (2011). On learning to subvert signs: Literacy, technology and the TPACK framework. The California Reader, 44(2), 12-18.

Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those Who Understand: Knowledge Growth in Teaching. Educational Researcher, (pp. 4-14). Chicago, Il.

Final Video in My NLP quest to become a C++ programmer

When I started CEP810, I chose to become a C++ programmer as my Network Learning Project (NLP).  I must say, like all things in my life, I was overly ambitious.  Now while in the most basic form of the word programmer I am a programmer of C++ because I have made programs, I am not by any stretch of the imagination ready to add C++ programmer to my resume.  At the beginning of my quest, almost 8 weeks ago I knew the C++ was a computer language that most game designers said you needed to understand to game design.  I am still unclear as if whether or not that learning C++ is just a hazing ritual, but I know I have learned a lot.  I can now programs using inputs that are either numbers or words, I can use result statements, I can use if else statements to give two possible answers based on previous results, and I can use basic math operations in my programs.  The program I used for this video is a completely new program, I did not find it in a video or a help forum.  However, I did use look through many videos on youtube and look through many help forums to try and find out what I was doing wrong.  However, then Alberta was hit by a flood and the internet when out.  Suddenly, my Network Learning Project became just a Learning Project.  I had to scrap a large portion of what I wanted to do in this program because of the lack of access to the internet.  I had not realized how dependent I had become to just be able to pop on the internet to look for a solution to my problem, until it wasn’t there.  This must be how students feel when they work in groups using all the resources at their disposal and then cut them off to work alone on a test.

What I decided to program for my final video was a way to walk my students in the 8th Grade through the steps necessary to decide if a triangle was a right triangle if they knew the lengths of all three sides.  Quite often I will receive the answer , that Yes it is because it looks like one….not the mathematical reasoning I was hoping for.  So I thought walking them through this concept would allow me to not only use numbers, mathematical operation, string values, and results but would also be something useful in my teaching career.  Before we get to the video, here is a primer for all of you that don’t remember The Pythagorean Theorem.  The red square and the blue square fill the purple square exactly in a right triangle.

hyp picture

So hopefully this visual will help you as you are listening to my video about creating a program that helps students to follow the mathematical reasoning steps to decide if a triangle not only looks like a right triangle but actually is.

I believe there are more ways to learn than just in the classroom.  I agree that youtube allows students to learn a skill that they perhaps did not have access to or have the money for however I believe that any skill that could be dangerous to the student should have an on-hand mentor.  It is all well and good to have the video on how to rewire your house, but the consequences of what could happen , I feel, out weigh the usefulness of youtube and help forums.  So while I feel this is a useful way to allow students the freedom to control their own learning, I feel that for classroom use the parameters need to be limited to less than anything you want to learn.

Cooking with TPACK

So in my video, seen below, I was given an average dinner plate, a very narrow and tall bowl and a whisk.  The plate was useful for its regular job of holding bread and containing the mess.  The bowl was, like in many of the other videos by my classmates, irrelevant.  I actually put it to one side and forgot about it.  The whisk was not the knife I usually use but it accomplished the task, although it was much much messier.  The flat end  was able to cut the bread by smooshing the bread until it was thin enough to tear, proving crude but affective.  There was little control with the jam and the large rounded handle of the whisk.  Using the whisk end of the whisk required me to move the spring out of the way to allow something more spatula like.  At first the peanut butter would not stay on the end and then there was too much.  It worked fairly well as a spreader but there was too much peanut butter on the sandwich.

Well I can honestly say making the old PB&J will never be the same again.  It will be an experience that brings a smile to my face as I make each new one.  However, entertaining it was the real smile comes to my face when I think of what I have learned.  I have always been the person who investigates all the new technology options at school.  I never ask for something until I’ve tried it out, but I always seem to try.  This new understanding of TPACK(Kereluik, Mishra, & Koehler, 2011) which started as TPCK (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) as looking at educational practice first and then seeing which technology can be repurposed to support that learning was new for me.  I’ve always approached lesson plans with technology as I have the new tech now what can I do with it, instead of my new understanding in which I have to look at what learning I want to occasion and then say what technology can I use to support that occasions for learning. I want my classroom to be as Mishra says the “Total PACKage” for my students.

Kereluik, K., Mishra, P. & Koehler, M.J. (2011). On learning to subvert signs: Literacy, technology and the TPACK framework. The California Reader, 44(2), 12-18.

Mishra, P. (2012, Mar 26). Keynote Speaker @21st Century Learning Conference-Hong Kong 2012 [Video file]. Retrieved from!

Mishra, P. & Koehler, M.J.(2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054. Retrieved from


The Quest to become a C++ programmer continues.

This week, has been a harder week to get motivated to learn more in C++.  I have hit the okay but when can I do anything useful?  Just when I hit the most frustrated part of my week I was pushed a video in my feedly feed that linked to this one.  You should check out feedly if you haven’t already.

Needless to say, it made me laugh but I also began to wonder if I have chosen the right program to start with. All my research before hand said that if you want to design games you need to start with C++. However, I wonder if that was due to a true need or a case of well I had to do it so you should too, a hazing ritual of sorts if you will. All that aside, I continued on my quest to learn more about programming in C++. I decide I wanted a video that taught me something interactive. I found the following video. You can tell by his compiler that he doesn’t speak English as his first language but even without audio he explains some concepts that I did not know like you have to ignore all the inputs until you are ready to use them and I need to use string to put in letters and int to put in numbers.

After watching the video I found I could not get more than one word to show up in my saying so I went to hunt for answers. I found this site recommended in a few videos so I went to see what I could learn.  I found out that the function cin stops at the first blank space so I needed to use getline to allow it to recognize multiple words. Here is my new program using a tweet from Emily.

What is up next… perhaps some math?

@EdTechEJS (2013, June 2) @MTHRKS You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar #cep810 #maet.[Twitter Post]. Retrieved from (2013) Basic Input/output Retrieved from

CrankyProgrammer. (2010, Mar 26).C++ Programmer [Video File]. Retrieved from

T, Amy (2013, June 8). 2nd video 810 [Video File]. Retrieved from

ThaKillerrr. (2007, July5). c++ Tutorial 3 – Basic input and output [Video File]. Retrieved from