Author Archives: AnnMaria De Mars

Paiute rancher on horseback

Teaching math, Indigenous and rural history: Free PD

We’re very excited to announce that 7 Generation Games has received a grant from the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary sources program. We will work with educators to create games and lessons teaching Indigenous and rural history using primary sources. Of course, if these lessons included math or science, we would be thrilled. Educators will work with facilitators, Professors Annmaria De Mars, Juliana Taken Alive and Dan Conn in a series of three workshops, two create game designs and lessons using those games.

Games will then be created by 7 Generation Games. Participants receive credit from Sitting Bull College.

Paiute ranch worker, Tex Northrup, riding a horse

Image is Tex Northrup, a Paiute rancher, from Library of Congress collection

The first cohort will give priority to teachers from North and South Dakota and kicks off with an online meeting August 2nd.

For more information, and to apply, see the post Co-designing Games to Teach with Primary Sources from Indigenous and Rural History or just

Go the the application form to sign up.

Two kids in a kitchen

Baked-In Fractions

Author: Isabel Bozada-Jones

Standards

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.NF.B.7.A Interpret division of a unit fraction by a non-zero whole number, and compute such quotients.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.NF.B.7.B Interpret division of a whole number by a unit fraction, and compute such quotients. For example, create a story context for 4 ÷ (1/5), and use a visual fraction model to show the quotient.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.NF.B.7.C Solve real world problems involving division of unit fractions by non-zero whole numbers and division of whole numbers by unit fractions, e.g., by using visual fraction models and equations to represent the problem.

Background Knowledge

Prior to this lesson, students should understand unit fractions and basic concepts in dividing fractions. This lesson gives students the opportunity to practice creating and solving problems where they have to divide fractions or divide by fractions, which can be easily differentiated based on student skill level. 

Instruction

  1. Introduce students to Bake-a-Palooza and have them play the game. The first time they play it, have them answer questions correctly. The second time they play it, have them answer questions incorrectly and watch the instructional video that plays.
  2. Explain that to practice dividing fractions, they are going to be creating matching questions for a new version of Bake-a-Palooza. Show the questions currently in the game as an example. 
  3. For each matching questions they add to Bake-a-Palooza they should have:
    1. Fractions that are divided by whole numbers or whole numbers divided by fractions. 
    2. Visual models for each equation
  4. Have students create a real world problem using their fractions and visual models that could be used to create a “chapter 2” of Bake-a-Palooza
  5. Have students share their game ideas with others for feedback. Students can solve each other’s problems to double check their work.

Extension

  • Students can create videos to teach students who incorrectly answer questions in the game.  If having students use their own phones to create videos, we suggest doing this activity at the end of class to minimize the number of times you need to say, “Please put your phones away.” Also, plan to have a few iPads or Android tablets available for use by students who don’t have a phone. If video editing software is available for computers or tablets, this lesson can be followed up with use of those computer applications.
  • Students can create multiple chapters of Bake-a-Palooza based on the three different parts of the 5th grade standard on dividing fractions.
baking, cake fail

Warm-up Games and a Math-in-Music Lesson

Over the past few years, we have interviewed hundreds of teachers, principals, after-school staff and other experts in education – 100% cited maintaining student attention as a challenge. Across the classes we observed and teachers we interviewed, from Title I schools, from 15-50% of students were not turning in their work. 

To help catch student attention, either at the beginning of a lesson, or to apply a concept as attention starts to wane, we’re building a series of “Warm-up Games” that can be played on a Chromebook.

Our first five warm-up games all take less than 10 minutes, from beginning to end. These include games in Spanish and English, cross-curricular games with math and music or science and a game to teach history and music vocabulary.

Bake-a-palooza – Dividing unit fractions by integer – PLAY GAME

Bake-a-palooza Español – Spanish version of Bake-a-palooza – PLAY GAME

Minnesota Turtles – Concepts of indigenous and endangered species and converting fractions to decimals. – PLAY GAME

All That Math Jazz – Jazz history and using ratios. – PLAY GAME

All That Jazz Music – Jazz history and music vocabulary – PLAY GAME

Wondering How You’d Use These Games?

Check out one option in the All that Math Jazz lesson by Isabel Bozada-Jones of Ohio. Like Isabel, we’ve often found that students are more interested in math when they can see its application to other subjects.

Our game catalog is growing – and still free

Like us, you’ve probably seen a lot of grant-funded programs disappear once the grant ended. We’re proud to say that, through a combination of public and private funding, we’ve gone from 10 Chromebook games at the end of the Growing Math project to 17 today. You can find the list, math and other content taught and links to play here

Within the next few months, we’ll have at least two more warm-up games and two longer games released, one of which is bilingual in Spanish and English. 

Thanks to the SciTech Minnesota program, we’ve been able to add two software developer interns. Thanks to the Center for Economic Inclusion, we’ve been able to hire a Business Development Specialist, freeing up AnnMaria’s time to focus on software development. What this means for you is that a couple of the games that have been in beta will have their final (fingers-crossed) bug-free release, and every game in our catalog will be receiving an update over the next several months.

We Love to Hear from You

As always, we are happy to hear feedback on our games, bugs (gasp), suggested enhancements, lesson ideas or just good jokes.

You can follow us on Instagram @7gengames , find us on LinkedIn or Facebook.

silhouette of a man playing saxophone during sunset

All That Math Jazz

Author: Isabel Bozada-Jones

Standard

STANDARD

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.4.NF.B.3.C Add and subtract mixed numbers with like denominators, e.g., by replacing each mixed number with an equivalent fraction, and/or by using properties of operations and the relationship between addition and subtraction.

Background Knowledge

Prior to this lesson, students should understand the basic concept of fraction and how to add fractions with like-denominators. Basic knowledge of musical notation (whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes) would be helpful, but is not necessary. 

Instruction

  1. Reflect back on students’ prior work with fractions and ask about what they have learned so far. 
  2. Explain that musical notes can be thought of like fractions and that today we are going to be working in 4/4 time signature, which is something they will learn about later, but means that a measure contains four beats and each quarter note is a beat. 
  3. Today, we are going to be starting with whole notes, which take up an entire measure, and we are going to be finding out what different rhythms are equivalent to each other. 
  4. Show students this picture of different notes. 
  1. Explain that each measure in the picture is equivalent to each other, depending on how fast the notes are, they take up different amounts of the measure, or the whole note. Show students the same picture with the equivalent fractions on it. Ask them what they notice and wonder. 
  1. Watch Using Music to Study Fractions
  2. Show students several note combinations and have them find the least common denominator to create equivalent fractions. Demonstrate how these fractions fit into measures (equal to one whole note)
  3. Have students play Jazz Math  to practice creating equivalent fractions 

Extension

  • Have students write addition and subtraction equations with different notes. Have them clap or play a percussion instrument to show the different parts of their equations. 
  • Have students create their own equivalent fractions to add to the next version of Jazz Math. How would they make the game harder? How would they make it easier? 

Potential Questions for Game

What notes are equivalent to this fraction? 

computer

Game Design Unit for Middle School

INTRO TO GAME DESIGN

In this unit, students will:

  • Become proficient in use of Google apps Drive, Docs, Slides and Meet software for editing and sharing documents, presentation and videoconferencing.
  • Use Google Drawings, Chrome extensions e.g., Sketchpad, for creating graphics.
  • Use audio editing software to edit sound files.
  • Use educational software to learn and reinforce skills and concepts in mathematics.
  • Conduct original research on culture and natural environment of our community through outdoor education.
  • Conduct original research on history, culture and natural environment of our community and other Indigenous peoples through Internet and library research.
  • Conduct original research on history, culture and natural environment of our community and other Indigenous peoples through oral histories.

Google slides presentation to introduce unit

Module 1

Introduction to game design: Terms, game review, game design documents.

Module 2

Understanding software enhancement: Game revisions, bug reporting

Module 3

Deeper dive into game design: Breaking down elements

Module 4

Better games, better world: An inside look inside the game design process

Module 5

Real-world applications: Critical thinking and professional skills development

  • Record oral history interviews
  • Edit notes to include ideas from the video and interviews from Module 4.
  • Outline presentation or report to be given/submitted in Module 7. 
  • For those opting to present, craft a brief professional email to request a meeting with the software team to present your feedback and game suggestions.

Module 6

Getting your point across: Preparing presentations/reports

Module 7

Game design in action: Insights, enhancements and feedback

  • Prepare feedback/enhancement presentation using Powerpoint or Google Slides. Five-minute presentation plus five-minutes of discussion. For those who prefer not to present, draft a 1-2 page game design report.
  • Present to software design team via Google hangout, Zoom or Microsoft Teams

What I discovered on the Bozeman Trail

I’m the first to admit that my history education has been lacking, with my last history course being in the eighth grade. Since I skipped a couple years of school and entered college at 16, I didn’t even take the mandatory U.S. history course that everyone is supposed to have in high school.

All my life, I have been a “math person”. I’ve taught math from middle school through doctoral programs. What history I learned was mostly with working with our cultural consultants on games like Making Camp Lakota, Making Camp Dakota, Making Camp Navajo or Forgotten Trail.

As a developer on Bozeman Trail, a game designed to teach middle school history, I was, for the first time, exposed to some new perspectives.

sunset on Standing Rock

From an Indigenous perspective, history can pretty much be summed up as,

“We were living here and these people came in with guns, took our land, forced us on these reservations and sent our kids to boarding school.”

When I thought about it at all, which was admittedly, not often, my opinion was, wow, those colonists were really awful people.

People moved out west for “a better life.” I never asked, “Better than what?”

In eighth grade, back in the 20th century, I learned about railroad barons and the Homestead Act. People moved out west for “a better life.” I never asked, “Better than what?” and the question never came up.

Playing through the Bozeman Trail, I learned about the Irish immigrants who built the railroad. They didn’t come out west because they wanted to steal Lakota lands. They came because it beat starving back home. Does that make it right? No, but it is certainly a different perspective that I had never considered.

Chinese immigrants that built the railroad, too, had even worse conditions than the Irish. The game does not have a lot of the Chinese immigrant experience – it’s just one game, after all – but it had enough to make me want to learn more.

Life was hard for the Shoshone, Arapaho, Lakota and everyone else

If you were a child, a woman or a freed slave, you had even fewer opportunities and harsher conditions than the men working on the railroad. Children didn’t ride in wagons, unless they were very young. They walked. Deaths from disease and accidents were rampant. If your child got sick and died, you just went on. What else could you do?

Bozeman Trail gives an unvarnished look at the way the U.S. government broke treaties with the tribes. There is some background on the Panic of 1873. People lost all their savings. Banks were collapsing. There were no jobs. If you were lucky enough to have a job in the army and didn’t want to go fight the Indigenous people, you’d be thrown in the stockade.

Did that make it okay to go in and steal the gold from the Black Hills almost as soon as the ink was dry on the treaty that says the Great Sioux Nation are the owners of the Black Hills, forever? Did any of this justify moving the Shoshone, Arapaho and Lakota people to smaller and smaller parcels of land and forcing them at gunpoint to comply? No, of course not.

Personally, Bozeman Trail Reminded Me of Immigrants Today

When I see the news on immigrants getting off buses in New York City or Los Angeles from Texas, I don’t see them as people coming here to steal my job. I understand that it takes a lot for someone to pack up and leave everything they know.

Before Bozeman Trail, I’d assumed that the American west was settled by adventurers, young men who came out to make their fortune. I’m sure there was some of that. The perspective from the Bozeman Trail game, though, was many people were just trying to survive or thrive and they had found that impossible where they were.

gold medal

Students Pick their Favorite Lessons

Did you ever wonder what your students thought about your lessons?

During the summer, we were fortunate to have six students from Minneapolis review our lessons. Our reviewers included one third-grade student, one sixth-grade student , one student entering ninth grade, two entering tenth grade and one entering eleventh grade. Why did we include high school students? Because they have been in middle and elementary school much more recently than us, and they were better able to express their opinions than the younger students. Plus, as anyone who has taught grades six through ten knows, they do NOT feel the obligation to tell you what you want to hear!

And the winners are …..

Third Grade

Introducing fractions –  This was my favorite because I like how it starts the kids off easy and explains to them what fractions are.

Introduction to Lakota/Dakota Oral Histories & Storytelling – third grade social studies and this was a good subject also i looked at the presentation it was great and i think kids will be interested 

(Yes, our office has a swing out front. Doesn’t yours?)

Fourth Grade

Ojibwe Clans and Migration – I like how it teaches the kids how to understand the relationship between human populations and the physical world. (Note that a bilingual version of this lesson is also available in Spanish and English here. )

Fifth Grade

Figurative language & poetry – It’s cool how they demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships and nuances in word meanings.

Introducing idioms – The reading and the video were both good. For fourth and fifth grade, that is a good subject to learn about so I think the lesson was something I would have liked in that grade.

Decimals, epidemics and fly vomit – I liked the presentation and the activity was fun. I thought the video was boring and I’d like the teacher to tell us a few facts about flies instead. I hate flies.

Sixth Grade

Making a Calendar with PowerPoint – it was a good video and a good lesson to learn. I like the background noise. The only suggestion I have is for a little more detail on different things you can do with PowerPoint when making a calendar.

Teach ratio with Math Snacks – It was a good lesson in  sixth grade mathematics. I really like how they broke it down for the children to understand and it was a nice video also.

pyramid with character at the bottom

Learn statistics and history, in English or Spanish

 Standards

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT 5.NF.A.2 Solve word problems involving addition and subtraction of fractions referring to the same whole, including cases of unlike denominators, e.g., by using visual fraction models or equations to represent the problem. 

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.SP.5.c. Calculating quantitative measures of center (median and/or mean) and variability (interquartile range and/or mean absolute deviation).

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.7.EE.3 Solve multi-step real-life and mathematical problems posed with rational numbers in any form (positive and negative, fractions, decimals, and integers).

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

📲 Technology Required

Students will need access to a computer or iPad.

⏰ Time Required

30-45 minutes

📃 Summary

This lesson includes game-based instruction and assessment.

Click here for the AZTECH: THE BEGINNING TEACHERS GUIDE with answers to all math and vocabulary questions, game play ‘cheat sheet’ and everything else you need to know.

Lesson

Play a game (yes, it’s free)

  1. Assign students to play AzTech: The Beginning. The link to play the game online can be found here. It can also be downloaded from the App Store here.
  2. Students register with a username and password, then play the game, in English or Spanish. You can have students register and select their own, or provide usernames and passwords you wish them to use, for example, an existing school login.
  3. Each math problem has an EXPLAIN button that students can click to get an explanation of how to solve the problem. Some also have a hint, which is a short suggestion of how to go about solving it. For example, “Subtract the number of days you did not have homework, from the total number of days. Give the answer as a fraction of the total.”
Math problem with hint button

We recommend encouraging students to read the EXPLAIN and any HINT buttons before asking the teacher for help.

4. If students miss a problem twice in a row, they are routed to a LEARN MORE page and need to select an option, which may be a video, web page with voice over or matching terms, to learn more.

Assessment

Students get immediate feedback on right or wrong answers. Assuming students are playing online, results of in-game math challenges are recorded to a database which teachers can access. Access to reports can be found here.

Differentiated Instruction

Students who finish ahead of the class can continue the story in AzTech: Meet the Maya, available for the web and also in the Apple App Store for iPads.

Students who are not yet at the sixth-grade level in mathematics and who could benefit from a bilingual game can play Making Camp Bilingual, which address third- and fourth-grade math standards. It is available here for access from the web and in the Apple App Store and Google Play store .

Related lessons

Teaching statistics in classrooms with English learners AND Native speakers.

After the funding is gone: We’re still here

Anyone who has worked in marginalized communities, especially in schools, is very familiar with the grant cycle. Something is funded, people are hired, everyone gets excited, progress is made and then the grant ends. What then? Too often, it is off to the new project and all the training, materials and efforts go to waste. With tens of thousands of students using Growing Math software, we couldn’t let that happen.

The Updates Happening Behind the Scenes

As part of the Growing Math project, we received evaluations from teachers of what they wanted improved and what was working. An issue mentioned many times was graphics. Students were using the games and videos on their phones at home and, with all of the different phone sizes, the text was not always large enough, or an image might overlap with text. This occurred mostly with the first games we had developed, when some of these smaller screen sizes didn’t exist or certainly were not being used by children in elementary school. (Remember when fifth-graders didn’t have phones?)

In the last month, we put a new version of Making Camp Ojibwe in the Play Store and the App Store and updated Making Camp Bilingual on the web. A new mobile version of Making Camp Bilingual and a web update of Making Camp Ojibwe will be out by the end of April. We are updating games in the order of the number of users, but our goal is to have an updated version of every game by the end of the year.

The maintenance you don’t see

Have you ever tried to download software or gone to a website for resources and it’s no longer there?

Think of software maintenance like a car. If you don’t change your oil or get new tires, your car will run for a while but eventually, it’s going to break down.

It’s not just that new screen sizes come out or new devices, like tablets. Software requirements also change. A few years ago, browsers started blocking autoplay. We get it, that’s annoying but that also meant when you went to one of our pages where a video automatically played, teaching about, say, the Ojibwe migration, that video no longer played. We made the needed changes BEFORE Chrome started blocking autoplay, so students could keep playing the games.

Without getting into the technical details, I’ll just say that behind the scenes changes are happening all the time. Either we think of a way to make the game load faster, or the powers-that-be decide that certain functions or features will no longer be supported and if we don’t change our code, it will eventually stop working.

New resources are coming …

We know educators are tired of having to come up with completely new lesson plans to incorporate the latest new, shiny thing rather than receiving support to build on what works. We do have three new games under development, one of which will be available very soon. We will get back to publishing new lessons and new units. First, though, we are making sure that what you have already included in your lesson plans stays up and running.