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Math in the Movies: Ready Player One

With the release of the blockbuster movie Ready Player One, we have another super opportunity to reach math students in one of their favorite environments: VIDEO GAMING!

The Story Line

Ready Player One is a story set in 2045, in a dystopian world that is harsh and almost unbearable. People spend most of their time inside a virtual reality simulator known as Oasis.

When the creator of Oasis died, he announced in his will an Easter egg, which could be found through a series of three challenges. The first person to find it would be the winner and would inherit complete control of Oasis and his immense fortune.

The movie is full of action and exciting special effects. The characters inside Oasis are Avatars, created as the digital portrayal of the player’s self-image. Throughout the story, the players have to play games, work through puzzles, and defeat enemies.

The characters have to use their wits, their minds, and learn as they move through the virtual universe. And these are exactly the kinds of things that we want our students to do while learning math concepts!

Through the use of educational video games, we can help students expand their minds. Playing edutainment games could build their knowledge and allow them to practice their mathematical concepts to mastery. And this all can occur while playing games and having fun!

Dimension U Games in the Classroom

For our math lesson based on Ready Player One, we used games on the Dimension U site and app.

Dimension U has interactive video games that follow common core standards for math and english, and these games are much like the ideas in the movie.

Players create their avatar and can collect coins to purchase powerups or superpowers. Similar to the first challenge in Ready Player One, Dimension U has a fun mathematical racing game called Velocity. Even the third challenge in Ready Player One on planet doom is similar to the Dimension U math game, Meltdown, it' just not as violent- LOL!

With all four games provided by Dimension U, students have to answer questions and work through problems as they move through each level of the game. Some of the challenges are thrown at the players in rapid succession, making the players have to answer questions quickly. Only when the players answer correctly do they attain the reward, up their level, or move on to the next challenge.

As a teacher, I can see each problem that the students encounter during game play. I can use this data to analyze results as a grade, a class, or an individual student. Teachers can select which standards each child will practice inside of the game. They can also determine the length of game play and exactly which of the four games the students will focus on. Similar to Ready Player One, students can work in a "clan", teams play, depending if that feature is selected.

Students have a blast with this infusion of video edutainment in math class. I love using this resource as a way to determine how much of the material has been mastered by each class. Dimension U also has the same features and games for English language arts.

You can check out some videos of the game play:

Research on the Benefits of Game Play

In December of 2013, American Psychologist Association published an article, “The Benefits of Playing Video Games”, by authors Isabela Granic, Adam Lobel, and Rutger C. M. E. Engels. The study examined and identified four areas of positive impact on their players: cognitive, motivational, emotional, and social.

This study explained how gamers can improve their brains’ functions, as well as, build confidence through playing games. They not only exercise and build the parts of their brains that are used to learn math, but they are being motivated to do so by the positive reinforcements built into the games. Players understand that learning a game takes practice and perseverance; they don’t give up just because they fail. Each time a gamer plays a game, he can learn something new, and improve his performance. He must accomplish one thing after another, incrementally.

We see examples of this through the characters in Ready Player One. This is a skill needed to learn math as well.

Another terrific source for reading about the benefits of gaming and summaries of some of the research is the website MindShift. The site has a number of articles focused on video games and the positive applications in learning.

Building Math Esteem

Video games definitely help our students get motivated - students love gaming, even if they learn while doing it! We are meeting them on their turf, using their world to interact, and using fun to build their cognitive strength.

That gives students confidence - and THAT builds their Math Esteem! And that’s what it’s all about!

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