What maths lessons can learn from Angry Birds
Teachers love a good metaphor. Learning new things relies on you being able to relate it to something you already know and metaphors build those bridges. They anchor new abstract ideas into our current knowledge. Here’s a metaphor to get your pupils to understand what a brilliant learning environment would look like in your classroom:
Approach your maths lessons like it’s a game of Angry Birds.
For the uninitiated, Angry Birds is a best selling computer game where you fire cartoon birds out of a catapult to try to knock over structures with the aim of popping small green pigs. The game is a worldwide phenomenon, stacking up over 1 billion downloads so far. If you don’t know it, the kids in your lessons will.
The same kids who give up easily in our lessons when they say ‘I can’t do it’ without even trying will sit and play Angry Birds for hours. They fail on Angry Birds then have another go straight away. They show us no persistence in lessons, but then persevere through endless failures in the virtual gaming world. Why?
Instant feedback is they key. If you go wrong in Angry Birds you know why straight away. You adjust your strategy accordingly, with no fear of failure and have another go. You don’t launch 20 birds before you find out if the first one did the business. In maths lessons pupils shouldn’t be doing 20 questions before they find out their answer to the first one is incorrect. The longer feedback takes to receive the less it is effective. Get students to mark as they go. Do mini pitstops every 5-10 mins into a task where pupils mark what they have done so far. Mark homeworks in class too.
If your current strategy isn’t working in Angry Birds you try something else. Our pupils need to see solving maths problems in a similar vain. Appreciating there are many routes to a solution is a great motivator for pupils to show some sticking power if they are struggling on a maths problem.
There’s solid maths content to be had from Angry Birds too with quadratic shaped flight paths and correlations between angle of release and distance travelled.
As far as metaphors go I think this one could fly. If our pupils approached their maths lessons the way they take on a game of Angry Birds they might conquer level 7 in their exams too…