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Monday, June 11, 2012

5th Grade Math Students Pilot "The Lure of the Labyrinth"

This year, fifth graders in my math group piloted "The Lure of the Labyrinth," an interactive website at The site is designed to provide practice with essential math skills for students in the middle grades. The premise of the game is simple: after students have created a cartoon character for themselves, complete with monster costume and pet, they are informed, through a sequence of comic strips, that their pet has just been kidnapped by monsters. Their mission is to rescue their pet -- by traversing a labyrinth of rooms, each of which contains a puzzle centered around a particular math skill. One unique characteristic of the site is that the instructor, in the process of creating an account, sets up an educator account, which gives them access to data revealing how much each student has played, which puzzles they have mastered, and how far they have advanced into the Labyrinth. It is therefore possible to monitor, assign, and assess learning through the website.

Perhaps the greatest strength of the game, however, is that the practice, though it targets important fourth and fifth grade math skills, is not drill-based. Each puzzle presents an interesting problem that requires creative thinking to solve. For example, students use the notion of common multiples to select portions for monsters' lunch trays in the cafeteria, or solve algebraic equations in many variables as they pore over hieroglyphs in an underground cave. So, while they are never asked, "What is the least common multiple of 25 and 5?", they have a rich experience that leaves them with a greater depth of understanding of that question's underlying meaning. The result is a meaningful exploration of central skills... that's a lot more fun than worksheets!

-Ellie Cowen
5th and 6th Grade Math

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Peer-to-Peer Networking

As the school year winds quickly down it was truly a pleasure to hear some of our "launch grant" recipients reports to their colleagues at recent faculty meetings. At the upper school meeting we heard from three of this year's participants. Paul Ruhlmann spoke about his work with creating videos of common woodworking techniques, Rosario Sanchez-Gomez spoke about her development of SmartBoard instructional lessons, and Leah Cataldo spoke about her comparison of Google Sites and Haiku Learning Management software. This peer-to-peer sharing was one of the highlights of my year. Perhaps it is the fact that their experience resonates with colleagues, or perhaps it is the result of the active collaboration which these grants foster, but whatever the case, it is clear that peer-to-peer sharing is an extremely valuable part of our professional development efforts. We had similar results from the recent google apps training, in which several teachers at each campus were involved in delivering training to their peers on this new collaborative platform. The future of technology at BB&N is bright because we continue to build on the experience and expertise of our faculty.