Bridging the Gap Between 'Storytelling' and Game-based Learning

Posted by Reed Howard on Jul 11, 2013 10:21:00 AM

game-based math learning“What is the perimeter of the rectangle?”

My eleven-year-old self said as I stared at the question for over a minute. A rectangle was printed below it, two of the sides neatly labeled.

“Perimeter? What was that?”

It sounded familiar and I knew we had learned about it in class at some point, but that was months ago. Do I multiply the sides, or…

“Secure the perimeter!”

The word came back to me - the perimeter was the boundary, or the sides. This realization wasn’t from math class, however. It was from my favorite comic book character, Sonic the Hedgehog.

That’s the thing about kids and stories: by associating a new word or concept with an adventure, that knowledge is easier to retain and recall. This is my goal every time I embark on a new section of content at Wowzers. Of course, bridging the gap between storytelling and learning is often easier said than done.

Telling the 'Story' of the Wowzers Writing Process

Our writing process begins with a curriculum map. What do the students need to learn throughout the course of the school year, and how do these content areas match up with the standards? Wrangling the concepts into a logical and complete sequence is a process that takes days, and is continually reworked as the curriculum is being written. Honestly, at this point, stories are one of the farthest things from my mind. Creating a story around irrational numbers? Yeah, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

mathematics game-based learningOnce the curriculum map is complete, it’s time to brainstorm. At this stage, we deal with a small section of the curriculum, and think about how it’s used in the real world. We look at story problems, research careers, discuss the characters and areas that exist in the Wowzers universe, and toss around dozens of story ideas (which the writer frantically writes down). From those notes, the writer creates a brief outline of how the content will flow.

Next, a small group of programmers, artists, and writers get together to review the outline during the pitch. At this point, everyone gives input on whether the story flows, how exactly the math problems will be answered, whether a student would actually find it FUN, and whether the content is achieveable in the allotted amount of production time.

Turning Brainstormed Ideas into an Engaging Wowzers Scripts

The writer then writes a script. This script tells the artists and programmers exactly what should appear on screen, where the student’s avatar will go, what characters will say and do, what math questions are given to the student, and how the math questions are answered. This is presented at a roundtable, where a larger group of artists, programmers, and writers get together to critique the script, line by line

fun math contentAfter the team is done tearing apart the script (I say this in the most loving and appreciative way possible, because although it can be slightly painful, the end result is much better than any of us could do alone), the script goes through several rounds of edits, before finally being handed off to the rest of the development team. It’s not the end of the line, of course. We writers see it again after it has been programmed, but that post-development process is a different adventure…

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Topics: Personalized Learning, Wowzers Tales

Wowzers is a comprehensive online math program covering all Common Core State Standards for grades K-8. The research-based program adapts to each learner and allows for an individualized path through the curriculum. Content is presented in multiple ways, and appeals to tactile, auditory, and visual learners. Assessments mirror those found on high-stakes achievement tests and provide teachers and administrators with the information that they need to personalize learning for each student.

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