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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

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