NUMROS

Photo credit: Beastsofwar

It is a well-known established fact throughout the many-dimensional worlds of the multiverse that most really great discoveries are owed to one brief moment of inspiration. There’s a lot of spadework first, of course, but what clinches the whole thing is the sight of, say, a falling apple or a boiling kettle or the water slipping over the edge of the bath. Something goes click inside the observer’s head and then everything falls into place. The shape of DNA, it is popularly said, owes its discovery to the chance sight of a spiral staircase when the scientist’s mind was just at the right receptive temperature. Had he used the elevator, the whole science of genetics might have been a good deal different.

This is thought of as somehow wonderful. It isn’t. It is tragic. Little particles of inspiration sleet through the universe all the time traveling through the densest matter in the same way that a neutrino passes through a candyfloss haystack, and most of them miss – Terry Pratchett

However some of these inspiration particles actually hit home! Very occasionally, some of them actually hit the cerebral jackpot – the Texas tea of the neuron world – the black gold of the brain.

In my opinion, this is exactly what happened to me, when I thought up the idea for NUMROS.

Now, it is very likely that a game like this has been created many times before, in many different ways, in many different schools. But that doesn’t matter!

I have created something I am genuinely proud of. Before Numros, I had another idea; and I think it was a pretty good idea. The game was called Grammar Slam and it has proved to be quite successful in the classroom. There is no doubt that I will be using the game again and I am sure it will continue to be a hit with the children. But it isn’t Numros!

So, what is Numros?

Hmm…where to begin?

I guess I have to start with the game’s origins, which are rooted in my nerdy game playing past. Once upon a time, I was a fully-fledged follower of Games Workshop’s Warhammer franchise. If you aren’t sure what Warhammer is, then I will enlighten you. Warhammer is a table top war game played with dice and miniature figures. It is played between two or more players and is set in one of two imaginary realms; one realm is a fantasy realm similar to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth and the other is set in the far future where the galaxy is ruled by a God Emperor.

When I was younger, I adored collecting Warhammer books and figures, as well as playing the game. Even now, I still read many of the novels set in these imaginary worlds. I have also introduced many of my students to the different army books.

And so, that is where the inspiration for Numros came from.

How does the game work?

Well, Numros is also a tabletop war game. Like Warhammer it also includes miniature figures (only six for each side though), a dice (only one), rulers, turn taking and strategic planning.

I have included the game’s rules below.

What is the purpose of this game?

As you may be able to tell, the game is primarily designed to help children understand different mathematical concepts like algebra, BIDMAS and measurement. The game’s turn-based fantasy theme draws students in like a beehive draws bears towards a honeycombed prize. The children are immediately hooked by the fact that NUMROS is a game not a lesson. Another important factor is that the maths needed to play the game is incidental and unimportant to the player! The game’s other hooks include: the competition of battling opponents to be the ruler of Numros, the tactics and strategies needed to outwit an opponent, the diversity and potential narrative of the different fictional characters, the ability to work and collaborate with others in a team and the joy that victory brings in the various individual battles that take place in the game.

When I first introduced Numros to my students, I originally shared the rules via a Google Document. However, to really get them engaged, I used the Gold Fish bowl technique to demonstrate the game’s mechanics.

What was their response?

The reaction was beyond anything I could have imagined! It simply took my breath away. They loved it! The Teaching Assistant, who works alongside me, had the great idea of creating a Google survey to catalogue the children’s responses. You only have to read it to see just how much they enjoyed it. I can honestly say that I don’t think I have had many better feelings in my teaching career than I had the first day Numros was introduced to my class.

What’s next?

The next step is to introduce the game to my maths set and then to more children in Year 6. I have already shared the game with another class in my year group and the feedback was excellent.

I have also added a some one-off spells to the game based on feedback to the first game we played as a class. Again, I have included the new spells below.


But it gets better!

Without doubt though, the best part of the Numros experience is the way the children have taken the game and adapted it to fit their purpose. They have already started to add their own rules. One group decided that figures would switch sides rather than be removed if an opponent lost a battle. Another group decided to switch the playing area so it would be smaller. Many of the groups changed the number of turns from five to a different number; another group thought it would be better to play to the last figure standing. The introduction of spells was talked about and introduced in a highly innovative way by one creative soul. Then there was the issue of dice – why have a six sided dice when you could have a ten sided dice?

Children have videoed their games for posterity. One ambitious group decided to create a video tutorial to help others better understand the game.

During game play sessions, I have heard the terms ‘messing around’, ‘play testing’ and ‘trialling’ used to describe the concept of figuring the game out. I simply cannot explain or describe the shear amount of learning that has taken place over two hours of Numros game play.

The possibilities for this game are endless and I am already thinking of adapting the game to have an historical purpose. I haven’t decided just how to do this yet but I will find a way…

Session 1

Session 2

A good idea goes a long way!

Photo Credit: Let’s South

I am borrowing heavily from an inspired game based learning idea created by a colleague of mine named Phillip Arneill. This gaming template has become so successful in my school that it has been adapted and replicated for a wide variety of lesson types and learning opportunities.

I would say there are at least four different teachers who have used this system in at least seven different ways. It has been used for Maths lessons, English Lessons, getting children to vote for a star pupil of the week and teaching children about the Earth, Moon and Sun.

I have included this link to the original post as credit really needs to be given to Phillip for his truly brilliant idea. I do urge you to read the original post as it will give you a better understanding of how the game-template works (even though I will explain the system in more detail later in this post).

So how have I adapted it?

Well, I have used it in two ways. The first as a trial run for my final project; and the second being my actual final project for the Eduro Learning course on gamification. I will concentrate mainly on the trial version in this post but I will occasionally mention the final version of the game – which will be a continued presence in the classroom as we move through the school year.

How does the game work?

So, the game works a little bit like a treasure hunt with an eventual prize being awarded for those students who manage to make their way through a series of different slides; each of these slides contains a different riddle or question from the topic you are revising/teaching.

The true beauty of this gaming template lies in it’s simplicity. All the game asks the children to do is solve the riddle or question on the current slide to reach either the next slide or the final prize. The game can be as long or short as you want. You can have four or twenty slides – it really doesn’t matter! Some games require more, some require less. It very much depends what you are teaching. What is even nicer about the slides idea, is that it fits into the gaming ideology of players needing to move from one level to another to progress.

Ingredients

You will need the following online applications to construct a game of your own:

  1. Google Slides – you put the game together using different Google slides (a different slide for each question or riddle).
  2. The Tiny.cc URL shortening site – this allows you to customise your URLs so that the end of the URL is the answer the students need to find. This also allows each slide to be linked to the following and preceding slides.
  3. A subject which can be easily adapted to fit the fundamental idea of the game; which is to challenge the students without making it too difficult. Not everything fits and be careful not to overuse the game as children will soon get bored of the concept if they are doing it all the time.

How am I using the game?

In maths.

Left unchecked, maths lessons can become a monotonous series of worksheet-based sessions filled with endless lists of calculations and word problems. And this, my friend, is where the ‘Arneill Game’ comes into it’s own! I decided to use it in a manner similar to the way Philip had first used it in his original post. I used the game template to encourage children to become more familiar with number problems where there was a mixture of different steps involving multiples, factors, prime, square and cubed numbers.

Did it work?

Yes indeed! It worked like a treat. The children were much more engaged and were able to access the game and the learning with little difficulty. I would say it was a roaring success but if you don’t believe me have a go yourself…

I have included the first slide in this post to give you a better feel for the game and how it works.

Final project

I have now moved beyond the initial maths game, although I will continue to use this format in maths, and have moved into an area that I know children mostly detest – GRAMMAR. Let’s be honest, most children hate it! In fact most adults hate it. I hate it!

However, this game based learning system is an excellent method for encouraging and motivating students to become more interested in grammar without them even being aware that they are becoming more engaged with the different elements of grammar.

To make things even more interesting I am going to spice things up by gamifying my classroom so that we have a class leader board. We will also have a power up/end of game bonus system. This will allow the players with top three times (the three quickest to complete the game) to be given classroom rewards. I am also thinking of creating a power-up glove, hat and chain/necklace (names and powers/abilities to be decided yet) which will grant the wielder access to class/game rewards.

For the moment this remains a work in progress but stay tuned to find out more…

Weekly ‘End of level Boss’!

I have continued to persevere with my classroom experimentation with Civilization Revolution for the iPad.

How is it going?

Well, I carried out a survey using Google forms and here are the results so far.

There is no doubt that the responses are mainly positive. I really enjoyed reading the comments i.e. those comments which mention walking in the shoes of great historical leaders or the comment which discusses the issue of the differences between the great leaders in the game. I also liked the idea of using Popplet to find out more about great leaders from history. It is clear that the game has a lot to offer. I now need to find a way of bringing the game into our Primary School’s curriculum…I could certainly use some of those great leader’s attributes and skills right now!