Monday, 18 November 2013

Minecraft Algebra Provides a Reference Point.

So the students in my year 8 class continued on their exploration of building and using algebraic equations from the textbook today. The text questions aligned perfectly with the types of questions the students were doing about Minecraft last week when they swapped back to the text book. Given the introduction that students had, explaining how to create equations from worded questions was much easier with Minecraft as a reference point.

For example, the book asked students to write an expression for legs (l) for n grasshoppers. Some students were struggling, but mentioning the logs to planks expression we used last week seemed to help them to see the connection, that l = 6n because for every grasshopper there is 6 legs. I honestly do not know how I would have helped students to see the connection if I could not refer them back to Minecraft the way I did. I am sure, in the past, I would have just taken more time to sit with those students who were struggling and tried to think of as many different ways of explaining it to them as I could until one stuck.

I think that, perhaps, because algebra is such an abstract thing, that the 'real' connection and visual of the Minecraft crafting bench really helps students 'get' the idea, and gives them a base to work from for the more abstract questions.

Now, the comments from students as to their reason for going to the textbook rather than continuing with Minecraft algebra. I ran out of time to post these last week, but the main reasons students provided were: The questions from the text book are clearer. The book has answers in the back that they could refer to to see if they got the question correct. They also felt that the textbook would have easier questions. Finally, a couple wrote that they were more used to working from the text book.

The comment from the one student who persisted with the Minecraft algebra calculations was "it was harder to comprehend and a challenge." What a great reason to persist, wanting a challenge, wanting to extend themselves.

I will leave you on that positive note, and ask how do I get all of my students to want to challenge their learning instead of taking the perceived easier option? Thanks for reading, feel free to leave a comment below.


  1. Hey Stephen, nice blog post! This looks like a classic case of students needing to learn how to adapt a growth mindset - one in which they believe that they can always improve if they give enough effort. Seems like the "textbook" students have more of a fixed mindset - they want to affirm to themselves that they are "smart" because the book could confirm that they got the right answers.

    I would recommned reading Carol Dweck's "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success" if you haven't already done so or see her website at for more info on growth mindsets. IMO, promoting a growth mindset is one of the most important things that education needs to do. The good thing is that games (including Minecraft) do a great job in helping to promote a growth mindset.


    1. Hi Randall, thanks for taking the time to reply. You are right it is a classic case of wanting to know whether they got it right. I will certainly be investigating growth mindsets and seeing if I can bring parts of it into my classes to promote student learning, rather than students chasing the correct answer all the time as an affirmation.