Last week, the New York Times ran an article on Kahoot, an online quiz system from Norway being played in some schools. The article is well worth reading for its smart discussion of “engagement” and “gamification.”
These are two subjects near and dear to my heart. The article, by NY Times reporter Natasha Singer, also made mention of Ascend Math.
“Readers who attended school in the pre-laptop era may have played classroom games like multiplication bingo, an offline exercise in which students win acclaim or prizes for being the quickest to remember their times tables. Today, students may use Ascend Math, a learning app that rewards students who complete a level by letting them play short video games.”
Those of you who have been reading my blog posts are likely aware of Base Camp, the newest addition to Ascend Math. Ascend Math Base Camp is a virtual world offering inventive games and activities. It was created in response to teachers who told us that their students wanted an occasional fun break from the lessons in Ascend Math. An evolving formula built into Ascend, including time on task and the passing of assessments, units, and levels determines when students can access Base Camp. Students understand quickly that they must earn their time in Base Camp. Time in Base Camp is held to three minute intervals so as not to detract from time needed learning in Ascend.
Base Camp does fit the mold of gamification but it is held in reserve as a reward for student’s hard work and progress in filling math skill gaps. Gamification is not necessary to achieve student engagement.
In a world of Kahoots and cartoon learning software it can be easy to get confused. While games can be engaging, what is important is to make actual measurable learning engaging as well. Making lessons interactive and providing a hands-on understanding of a given objective can and does make learning math engaging. Games can be like a little treat after a good meal, but it’s the learning that provides the nourishment they need.