While online games and simulations—like Frax—help students learn math concepts like fractions, there is still a need for classroom discussions and offline collaboration. As explained by Laura Chervenak, Vice President of Professional Development for ExploreLearning, when working individually on a computer, students don’t have time to process or talk about what they’re learning. That’s why Frax comes complete with offline activities and discussion topics.
“[In the program] students learn to answer the question correctly, but if they can’t verbalize how they’re getting there, or what strategies they’re using, it makes it harder for them to transfer those skills to other types of math problems,” says Chervenak. “So offline activities and discussions are an opportunity for students to process their thinking verbally.
“It’s also a chance for the teacher to see what students know,” she continues.
With Frax, that chance for discussion comes in the form of mission debriefs, where students can explain what they did and why at the end of a Frax mission. “And they’ll be very excited to tell you about it because kids absolutely love Frax,” Chervenak says. “For example, in one mission debrief, you’re talking about loading blocks onto trucks—‘Well, how did you know which blocks you needed, and how many?’ You’re getting students to process those little bits of information and strategy.”
Captain’s Checkpoints get kids thinking, talking, and collaborating
These discussions prepare students for related offline activities called Captain’s Checkpoints. There is a Captain's Checkpoint between every four to five missions, each offering teachers various options on how to implement it.
For example, the Captain’s Checkpoint for Missions 1-4, called Maker’s Manual, builds on the online activity of making and naming block models. This checkpoint aims for students to begin to build a manual instructing future block makers how to ship block models efficiently.
Students work with a partner to solve 10 task cards. Once they complete all tasks, the pair collaboratively decides which four cards contain the most important lessons new block makers need to know to be successful. The pair then creates a manual on how to complete the four selected tasks to assist future block makers. The four tasks and their explanations are added to each student’s Maker’s Manual.
Teachers can decide how students will interact with the task cards—paper cards or electronic cards? Will they write a manual or produce a video or audio recording? And—most importantly—how will you celebrate when your class accomplishes this mission?
Suggestions, resources, discussion materials, and celebration ideas are included in each Captain’s Checkpoint to help teachers implement these offline activities and get students to reflect on—and understand—what they’ve learned.
“Reflection is where the learning happens, generally,” Chervenak says. “These offline activities prompt math discourse, and help students understand why they’re picking the answers that they are and develop true fractions knowledge.”