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Review: Teach Math with the Wii

Teach Math with the Wii: Engage Your K-7 Students through Gaming Technology

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Acknowledgement: This Examiner received a Preview Copy/Not for Sale/Uncorrected Sample of Teach Math with the Wii after contacting author Matthew C. Winner.

Personal copy of Teach Math with the Wii
RECasarez

Video gaming is often blamed as a cause of sedentary behavior and as a contributor to the rising obesity rates in children.[Linking obesity and activity level with children's television and video game use]. For those of us who played video games for the first time on the Wii console, there is another reality. Playing Wii video games is like playing games and exercising, combined. More accurately, it’s like having the most fun ever while exercising, and then some.

Exergaming is the term used to describe this active gaming experience. The Wii heralded a unique genre as this was the first console of its kind.With its introduction in 2006, gaming became culturally more acceptable and widespread in heretofore unaccepting territory [National Senior League featuring Wii Bowling]. The Wii was built for exergaming with its wand-like remote and games that require players to first move the furniture. New to everybody, including longtime gamers, the Wii forced everyone to take a second look at video gaming. Some, who may have never considered gaming seriously or professionally, had an epiphany.

Because I think like a math teacher (hey, it’s what I do), it was impossible for me to ignore the magnitude of the impact the Wii could have on budding mathematicians.” Meg, p.17

Enter authors Meghan Hearn and Matthew C. Winner, pioneers in experimenting with the Wii in the math classroom. Matthew, a teacher librarian and innovative thinker enjoys video games. He recognized the potential of the Wii console in the classroom as did Meghan, who is a mathematics educator and technology aficionado. Meghan’s four children probably assisted as test subjects! Both authors sound as if they are well-versed with the Wii console, games used for this book, and video gaming in general. For teachers who also want to use the Wii in the classroom, this is a must-read book. Bring it to your next administrative meeting. Once others see that educators are taking Wii seriously, they may too.

Overview

The Wii’s potential in the classroom is virtually untapped. These authors’ perspectives are unique and are just a tiny sampling of the ways Wii can be used. Though the back story is not written, Meghan and Matthew probably encountered some major resistance on the journey to gather support for this project. Kudos goes to them for publishing this book and contributing to the budding library of Wii exergaming literature.

Because this Examiner is quite unfamiliar with teaching mathematics in the K-7 classrooms and the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, this review is written from the perspective of a Wii Exergaming Expert (WEE) with primary focus on Wii exergaming basics such as technology, technique and protocols.

Wii gaming harder than you think

This book may have benefitted from more Wii research. The 1,777 Wii games [Nintendo's website] available promises an extensive pool from which to select games and test them out. Testing requires diligent practice and time investment to familiarize you with each mini-game. Learning curves may vary. Be prepared to try out lots of games. Consider joining Gamefly which, for a monthly fee, allows you to rent video games from their extensive library. Consulting other professionals in the areas of exergaming, fitness, rehabilitation, etc., for insights on how they adapted the Wii for use in their field is also a good idea. Collaboration across professions is essential.

Physical therapists turn to Wii golf by Lisa D. Mickey, NYT Health, Sept. 8, 2012

Exergaming is still seeking mainstream acceptance and if others are to engage in exergaming, the methods should be clearly outlined and easily implemented. That is not always the case in this book. As previously mentioned, it seems to be missing the prerequisite Wii Exergaming 101: Technology, Techniques and Protocols. Without this groundwork, this foundation, implementing any type of exergaming program can be frustrating as well as time-consuming.

While the applications of Wii in the classroom are limitless, the foundation of Wii play should be standardized for professional use and creative application. Once more people become proficient exergamers, a tipping point will be reached and emphasis on the basics will not be as needed.

A WEE perspective

Meghan and Matthew selected top-selling exergames Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit Plus as the games to integrate into their lesson sparks. Did they know they were choosing exergames? Exergames are defined as video games that get the player up and active.These selected exergames require varying levels of physical coordination, and, in many cases, extensive practice to play proficiently. The game selection indicates that students will not only be challenged with learning math, they may simultaneously be challenged in on-the-spot physical skills demonstration.

When integrating the Wii to support your application, consider selecting games that are not directly competitive, focus on score above fun and games that require practiced skill and coordination. Competition is generally detrimental in teaching situations and once Wii competitive juices are flowing, the focus could get sidetracked away from the lesson. Especially in large groups, emotions can run high in competitive games. Loud and unruly classroom behavior is probably not conducive to promoting Wii use in the classroom.

Wii Bowl and Make 10

The authors begin the lesson sparks with Wii Bowl and Make 10 for kindergarteners, ages 5-6. They list equipment required and proceed to explain the lesson. The educator is warned to

…familiarize yourself with each game before you play it with students. As you do, consider what game aspects may be challenging for them…so that you can anticipate any challenges that may arise during the lesson. p.36

Fair warning to all who think this is going to be easy. When delivering a Wii program, a WEE would require a clear strategy for things to run smoothly and effortlessly. If an educator is unprepared, then be ready for a chaotic experience, where the teacher may be at the mercy of his students. These lessons may benefit with this additional information, hence the following sample of a lesson plan written from a WEE perspective.

A WEE sample

Instead of bowling a game, Wii Sports bowling training module, featuring Picking Up Spares, Power Throws and Spin Control, is used. Why? 1) Most players probably haven't utilized these training modules so it levels the playing field; 2) simple to set up and learn; 3) tutorials prompt each player, so you don't have to worry about constantly giving instruction; 4) game can be quickly ended if needed; 5) games use varying skill sets so everybody gets to try something new and, 6) these mini-games encourage practice to beat your own score. The math part should still work with these selections.

  • Wii strategy. Allow at least 30 minutes of set up time; an hour if you are not a pro. A one-hour class would allow for approximately 30 minutes of play. So, four children will be allowed to play each game. Time for each game is limited to 10 – 15 minutes per group and could allow up to 12 bowlers in 30 minutes of Wii play. If lesson wraps up early, students who haven't played can volunteer to take a Wii Sports fitness test. Close Wii section by collecting all hardware and closing the game. Hopefully, there will be about 10-15 minutes remaining to end the class in an orderly and efficient manner.
  • Set up space. Choose between a projector or TV screen. Move back desks or other furniture as required for sufficient playing space.
  • Set up equipment. Turn on console and load game. Connect number of remotes (1-4) to game. Mini-game should be selected and number of players selected before handing off remote(s)
  • Set up players. Choose first four players. To speed things up, have each student select a ‘guest’ mii to represent her.
  • Set up non-Wii components, i.e. explain to students what they are doing, etc.

WEE suggestions for teaching math with Wii

If you want to use Wii Fit Plus, why not chose mini-games that are more ‘brainy’ and less ‘exergamy’ and deal with numbers? Make it easy on yourself. The Wii delivers the entertainment value, it won't be as demanding physically and more emphasis will be on mind function and the point of the lesson, instead of the body’s performance.

Using Wii Fit Plus

Equipment needed: Wii, balance board, various objects to weigh, remote, Wii Fit Plus

  1. Scale challenge – tests your ability to estimate weight
  2. Memory test – compare the number in the center with the number to the right. If the number in the center is greater, squat to mash the ball
  3. Perfect 10/15 – Shake your hips and do the math
  4. Peripheral vision test – stand still and select number in ascending order
  5. Judgement test – if the number is less than 4 shift your center of balance to select it. If not, just stay still

Highlights

As a planet, we spend 3 billion hours a week playing video and computer games. What elements of gaming can we harness for educational purposes? p.91

  1. Lots of interesting video gaming trivia sprinkled throughout
  2. Plenty of resources listed
  3. Six lesson sparks for K-7 for a total of 48 sparks
  4. Great graphics and pictures
  5. Tips on how to advocate for a Wii in the classroom
  6. Tables for a quick glance at what equipment is needed for lesson
  7. Support for those who want to learn more

Teach Math with the Wii: Engage Your K-7 Students through Gaming Technology is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. Have you read it? We would love to hear your feedback.