For Educators - During Puzzle Play

Puzzle Play

During Puzzle Play

OK, so you're finished with all of the classroom preparations, you've thought about the math in the game and you're ready to get your students started with some exciting puzzle play in Lure of the Labyrinth.

So now what do you do?

We're so glad you asked. Here are some things to consider.

Being the Guide on the Side

As we've said in other parts of these materials, less really can be more when it comes to your work with students when they're playing Lure of the Labyrinth. The puzzles are all about getting your students to s-t-r-e-t-c-h and to explore, to try things they haven't tried before, to expand their boundaries and maybe even think a bit like mathematicians. Students will be doing a lot of this work (and, of course, play) during puzzle play. So this particular time is one when it's best for you to be the so-called "guide on the side" rather than the "sage on the stage." Make sure your students have what they need, support them during their puzzle play, but remember that they are - more than during many other kinds of activities - at the center of their learning when they're playing Lure of the Labyrinth. Give them the space to begin the learning that you'll later help them develop much further.

That begins by allowing students to work with the puzzles before you begin formal instruction, beginning a conversation that promotes learning. The give-and-take of that respectful conversation is the core of a great game experience for both you and your students.

Get the Flash Player to watch this video.

If you are working in a one-computer classroom, you should consider ways to maintain a conversation where the students are doing most of the work when they first encounter a puzzle. In this video, game designer Scot Osterweil of MIT's Education Arcade shows one way this can happen, working with one computer and the Advance Team of teachers that advised the project.

Here are some suggestions about other ways to be a guide on the side:

  • When your students all have their own computers during puzzle play, it's a terrific opportunity for you to walk around your classroom and observe them at work. Ask individual students to tell you about what they're doing in the game ... and what they're thinking. This can be an extremely helpful assessment tool that can inform your formal teaching following puzzle play. Again, resist the temptation to offer answers to your students, but be there to provide support. It's best to let your students have as much control of the process as possible. With just a little bit of your wise prompting, your students will be able to explore the puzzles and develop successful strategies of their own to solve them.
  • As we mention elsewhere, you can create either homogenous or heterogeneous groups when students work in small groups on the same computer. However, you may be in for some surprises when you observe the groups at work. You're likely to find that some students who typically do less well in classroom math may, in fact, be very good at the math in Lure of the Labyrinth. And of course, the opposite can also be true. Watch how your groups work together. Do not hesitate to rearrange them to help your students achieve their educational objectives. Also consider using grouping as a way to bolster those students who are more successful at playing Lure of the Labyrinth than they may have been in other classroom activities. And finally, experiment with the size of your groups - two students? three students? Some teachers have had success with either or both. See what works best for your students.
 "I've seen groups of kids gather around the lone computer in class so they can all be part of the game being played by the one lucky kid with the mouse. And then they talk about it afterwards ... and before they play again." Read more in the Newbie Blog on Got Game? 

  • Whichever classroom configuration you use, remember that one of your main goals in setting up your class for puzzle play is to promote communication among your students. This is especially important given that students can't chat with their teammates via Lure of the Labyrinth's TPC during puzzle play. Do what you can to get your students talking - to each other and to you, when necessary - during puzzle play. Talking about the math in the puzzles will help student learn about the math.
  • Help students who really need help with the puzzles. While we expect that most students will indeed be able to figure out how to work the puzzles on their own, there will, of course, be a few who may need your help to do so. Go here and here to learn more about specific steps you can take to assist students who get "stuck" during puzzle play.
  • Help students with technical problems - While Lure of the Labyrinth has been designed to be absolutely as user-friendly as possible, some students may occasionally encounter technical problems while playing its puzzles. You can learn about all of the most common troubleshooting issues here.
  • Make it fun - By promoting a fun, relaxed playful attitude, you'll help your students get the most they can from Lure of the Labyrinth's puzzles. And you might even have a few laughs yourself!
Finally, remember that you don't need to spend endless hours of preparation time learning every nook and cranny of Lure of the Labyrinth and the mechanics of all the puzzles. With only minimal guidance (and some may need none at all), your students will be more than happy to figure out Lure of the Labyrinth's puzzles. To them, that activity won't even be work - it'll be play ... and they're already excellent at that!

Using the Graphic Organizers

As you likely know by now, some of Lure of the Labyrinth's puzzles require that players simultaneously juggle quite a bit of information in order to solve them. Some students will be able to succeed at these puzzles while never touching paper and pencil. But many others won't. Students in that latter group might understand the concept of a puzzle, but not be able to keep track - without paper and pencil - of the intermediate math work that could potentially lead them to correct final answers. To address that issue, we've developed a series of graphic organizers to go along with each of Lure of the Labyrinth's puzzles.

 "Even if using the game does take longer than a a different type of lesson, the game might help the concept 'stick' with some students ... so then the time was worth it." - Victoria Borella, Advance Team Teacher 

One of the most important things for you to understand about these graphic organizers is that they're not meant to guide students' puzzle play. They don't give students hints or offer strategies for solving the puzzles. Instead they merely serve as a kind of "enhanced" scratch paper that can help students work through the various steps in Lure of the Labyrinth's puzzles. Of course, it's entirely up to you how you use the graphic organizers. You might choose to give them to all of your students before they begin work on a particular puzzle. Or you can wait and distribute them only to students who seem like they'd benefit from them once puzzle play has begun. Either way, these graphic organizers can help students succeed in Lure of the Labyrinth.

Another cool thing about the graphic organizers is that they can give you some insight into how your students are thinking about the math in Lure of the Labyrinth's puzzles. When students use the graphic organizers, they'll be documenting their thought processes. And this can give you hard evidence of what happened during their puzzle play. Combined with the statistics you can monitor through the Administrator Tool, your students' work on their graphic organizers can give you data that you can later use when you teach the math content in a more formal way in your classroom.

Lesson plans
Student Graphic Organizers

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