Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Flappy Birds Math Lesson

I have to admit that I got caught up in the Flappy Bird craze for a couple days.  It was a fun, infuriating and addicting game.  The whole time I was playing I was wondering how I could turn this into a math lesson.  Ideas I came up with were minimal.  They involved measures of center and variability, as students would play a couple times and then find a bunch of one-variable stats and see how outliers can effect some of the different measures.

However this week we are introducing percent of change.  I thought this was also a great opportunity to give this a shot.  So here is what happened...

1. As students came in I had on my mirroring program and on 1 side of the screen was the day's schedule and on the other side was the iPad showing Flappy bird.  As students came in I sat and played a couple games.  Students came in excited and hooked right away.

2. We talked about Flappy Bird a little bit and shared high scores.  We then transitioned to percent change and how it can be used to measure improvement.

3. We went through 2 examples on the board of how to use a graphic organizer to solve a percent of change word problem.  The students took notes and listened, anxious to get to the Flappy Bird part.  I then asked students to solve a word problem on their own using the graphic organizer.

4. After each group proved capable we finally get to the Flappy Bird tie-in.  I made sure each group of 3-4 students had at least 2 devices with the game.  Students were instructed to play 1 time and write down that score.

5. Students were then given 10 minutes to practice their Flappy Bird skills.  

6. Students were then asked to put down their devices and listen.  They surprisingly complied very quickly and quietly.  I did mention that non-compliance would be grounds for being thrown out of the "Flappy Bird Olympics."  

7. I then told students they get 1 trial to get their final score and they should write down that score and then calculate their percent of change.  

8.  Students then helped each other as they worked in groups to use the graphic organizer to calculate percent of change.  I walked around the room helping students who really struggled.  

9.  While I walked around I kept note of some interesting examples to show to the class.  We then spent the last 10 minutes of class discussing examples.  

Example 1:
A pretty typical percent of change example with a small increase and a percent change above 0% and below 100%.

Example 2:
A pretty typical example of percent decrease, with a small decrease between 0% and 100%.

Example 3:
An example with the first and last score being the same.  

Example 4:
An example with over 100% increase. 

Example 5:
I tried to pick Example 4 as the highest percent increase in the room.  For the next part of the discussion I picked the highest initial score in the room.  We then calculated what that student's new score would have had to have been for them to beat the highest percent increase.  In one class we figured that a student's initial score of 133, would have had to increase to 646 for them to have won.  

Example 6:
An example where the first score was zero.  This led to a very interesting discussion where we talked about how to get an answer.  Using the graphic organizer and proportions we would have had to divide by zero to get the percent change.  We then studied what happens as the divisor gets smaller.  It led to a very interesting discussion!  

Surprisingly all these examples happened in both classes of 7th graders.  It turned out to be a very exciting and productive day.  We will see tomorrow about how much they remember about percent change.  


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