Gamifying My Homework

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by -nw-:
creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by -nw-:

Okay, well I haven’t gamified ALL my homework, really just the Math.

I’m not a fan of homework to begin with. Study after study has shown that it does no good. Those who can do it, don’t need the extra work while those who can’t, rarely have someone to help them. So what’s the point? I speculate that it comes down to the fact that, ‘it’s the way we’ve always done things’. But I’m not here to talk about the Pros and Cons of homework, I’m here to talk about a small success I’ve had with it this year.

As my district has a homework policy – I have to give it – I have strived to make it meaningful. Years ago, I assigned 20-30 math problems nightly. I know, what was I thinking? Then I scaled it back to around 8 problems and until recently it was closer to 3 or 4 per night. I tried making those problems easy enough to complete at home, yet incorporate some higher order thinking skills.

The problem? The students rushed; it was all meaningless for them. And I was frustrated with some of the half-hearted answers I was getting.

The solution? Gamify! Oxford Dictionaries defines Gamification as, “The application of typical elements of game playing (e.g., point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity”. In other words, making it a game. There are several application that can do this. I could have chosen to do it on my own, or use one of the programs available. I chose the latter. Since my homework is done online, it was only natural to find a program that worked for me. I chose Mangahigh. While there is a paid version that allows me to track the students’ progress in great depth, I opted for the free version.

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by rledda82:
creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by rledda82:

I have talked with parents and students about this shift. Everyone is in agreement that it is better than the problems. Parents have commented that their child begs, “One more game Mommy, I’m trying to beat ____.” Students are working towards goals. In this particular program, they earn bronze, silver, or gold badges. While the students are striving to obtain the badges, what’s really driving them is their competitive nature. They are trying to beat their friends, and me. I also signed up as a student and take all the challenges. The students LOVE coming to me and bragging how they’ve beaten me. Several have commented, “It’s way more fun [than the problems]!”

What I’ve noticed is that students are spending more time on math. I no longer get emails from students complaining that they don’t understand. I now receive emails telling me how many challenges they have passed and how many badges they have earned. I received an email from a student this evening. She was proud of herself for passing a challenge, beating me, and earning more badges. I told her how proud I was of her, and she responded:

“Thank you, I love Manghigh. It is super cool!”

In short, we are all happier. I am no longer frustrated that students aren’t taking their homework seriously. I am happy that they are spending time ‘playing’. They are happier, as are the parents. There are no more tears from students complaining that they don’t understand what to do (let’s face it, we’ve all been there. We can do it in class then when we get home, we forget how to do the problems), and no more frustrated parents.

This is why I have gamified my Math homework!

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