Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Wrong Kind of Algebra...

So my initial plan of using Minecraft to help students make and understand function machines has to be put on hold until we actually cover that part of algebra. I had forgotten that we split this topic into 2 parts, an introduction where students learn about pronumerals, expressions and terms. How to manipulate these things to solve problems. It is not so much about the 'solving of algebraic equations' that I would be using the function machines for.

Now this leads to an interesting point for me, and hopefully my class. Last year I did a mini-project introducing algebra using the crafting system in Minecraft. I am about to make that a full blown topic length project, or at least offer it to my students as an option instead of the 'standard' exercise questions that we would normally complete to cover this topic.

It is my belief, hopeful as it may be, that students will apply themselves with greater gusto and learn the content 'better' if we do this Minecraft crafting assignment. I am about to enter the class and negotiate the 'terms' of the assignment with the students and see where we end up. I have many ideas about what I would like the students to do to learn and demonstrate their understanding of algebra, but I would also like to have some student input on how they would like to see this move forward. It is going to be at least another 2 weeks until we can get the solid 90 minutes in Minecraft, but I might try and sneak in a few 45 minute sessions in the interim for them to begin their investigations.

Well it has been provided to students as an option, and interestingly enough only 4 of the students chose this. Now this is not an issue, I have negotiated most of the terms with these four students and the project appears to be going along nicely. I still have some work to do in terms of ensuring that students do actually gain the knowledge, through practice, of all the same content as the other students doing the questions from the book.

However they have made a good start on their tasks, they have listed all the items required to craft their chosen product, assigned each of these items a pro numeral and are now in the process of simplifying this expression down to the base materials required. They will then submit this list, I will 'give' them access to the list of materials they say they need and they will need to test their simplification in game and see if they can successfully craft their chosen items.

There will be some worksheets that involve using brackets but multiplying and dividing terms is something I still need to work out how to incorporate and finally factorisation as well. I have some ideas about how to get the multiplication and division working within the current project by discussing with students about multiples of their chosen crafting pathway, or just particular sections, I think this could also be used for brackets.

I will update more as the project continues, so thanks for reading, and if you have any suggestions please leave them in the comments section below. Thanks for reading.


  1. Hi Stephen! Algebra, yay! Anyway I can check out this project/world? I'd like to see what you are doing. I'm just getting into MCEdu and want to use it with my middle school math students! :) Thanks!


    1. Hi Pam, the 'function machine map' or the current algebra project? The current project does not strictly have a map, but I can write up the basic idea in a more cohesive way if you would like. As to the 'function machine' map, I have not even begun building this yet, and chances are it won't happen for another couple of months.

  2. Sure, a write up would be awesome! Thanks!