TM Bmoble

Mario KartOn Thursday on my way home from Kidsmeet I dropped into the Abundant Life Centre in Bradford to attend the second half of the Teachmeet following the BMoble conference.

This blog post gives detail of the 7 minute presentation I gave on using Mario Kart as a stimulus for mathematical discussion.

The background to this is that my job has changed recently with me supporting good and outstanding schools as part of a Games Based Learning project using the Nintendo Wii and DS to support teaching and learning in mathematics. This has included using games from Big Brain Academy to support teaching in Key Stage One of strategies to find number bonds to ten and twenty. I have used Balloon Pop and Mallet Maths as the stimulus and then moved onto other resources  including whiteboard files so that the Wii doesn’t become dominant.

It has been interesting working with schools that there was a suspicion that one of the selling points of GBL was engagement, motivation or raising attendance which (as Outstanding schools) were areas which they shouldn’t be looking to address. We have worked hard to develop the use of the games to identify and address mathematical misconceptions and to teach specific mathematical concepts.

The lesson I described at the Teachmeet was a lesson on using time to add and find the difference with a group of Higher Ability Year 4 children in a large Primary school. I worked with the class teacher before the session to identify approaches which he would like to see and so we settled on a lesson using entirely mental maths strategies and see how the children fared without being able to rely on notes and jottings.

We started the lesson off with a group of four children to race four characters from the game around the Peach Beach circuit – as this was a demonstration lesson we then moved onto data which I had compiled playing the game with my children on previous nights. I discussed with the children and the teacher how feasible it would be to compile this data and it was decided that it would be easy to do this in the run up to a lesson like this.


Once we had demonstrated that the children would collate data I put up this collection of race times and chose different pupils to read out time to gain an understanding of their confidence in reading to three decimal places – this could have been focus of the learning addressing misconceptions in terms of reading them and understanding of place value.

I discussed with the teacher how other games with timings such as racing games, Mario and Sonic and Olympics (and also at the Winter Olympics) can be used to create data to three decimal places for children to use. It is clear from my work and from talking to teachers that there are often misconceptions for pupils about values of numbers to one, two or three places.




We instead moved onto this data sheet with the times recorded in minutes and seconds as our learning objective was to use the times for addition and subtraction.  I isolated the data for the Peach Beach Circuit and asked the children to work in their pairs finding the sum of the times taken by the racers on the circuit. I was interested in showing how we could use this as part of formative assessment requiring them to maintain a running total in their heads without the use of pencil and paper. It was fascinating to see (as I had expected) many of them immediately using the convenient pairing of 1 second and 59 seconds as their starting point whilst other s simply worked their across the group of times from left to right.

I took in the times and ran a strategy check with the class. Again, if this had been part of a sequence I would have stopped following the lesson plan at that point and used what I learned about the children to compile the total times for each of the different circuits.


I wanted to demonstrate how we could use the same data over a series of days to extend the children’s thinking and so asked the children to  find Yoshi’s total times for the whole season in pairs. Again, it was fascinating to watch how the children undertook this task and how they applied the strategies from the first half of the lesson.

The children were given limited time to find the total and we collated the answers on the IWB – we got 12 different answers from 15 different groups! The range of answers was from 11 minutes up to sixteen minutes which then took us into using estimated answers to identify those which were most accurate. We rounded all figures to the nearest minute or half minute and added them again which told us that the answer would be near to 13 1/2 minutes.

Again the strength of the activity was the level of discussion and the strategies we discussed. We finished the lesson off by working through children’s responses and identifying the strategies which were most effective. At the end of the lesson I asked the children to record their learning on a sheet of paper by writing down the approach they took and what they would do differently next time.


So where had we got by the end of an hour with a group of children who I had never met before? The teacher was impressed by the high level of engagement of the pupils in a very demanding lesson. He also commented on the fact that the children had worked so hard for so much of the lesson. I had also deliberately underplayed the use of the Wii and so it had only taken up five minutes of the lesson – we did discuss how, by playing the game in the run up to the lesson (grabbed moments for races during lessons over a week), you might not even need to play the game at the start of the lesson itself.

Therefore the focus of the lesson was the mathematics and the fact that by using this data we had been able to really hone in on what the children’s learning  needs were. This required flexibility and the willingness to be led by where the children were not where the original lesson plan had dictated.

Pleasingly, the conversation then went onto the opportunities provided by using a game like Mario Kart across the whole curriculum which allowed me to share the great blogs on this by Pete Richardson and Mark Cunniman.


3 Responses to “TM Bmoble”

  1. mwoods
    September 16, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    HA! Sounds great. I had indeed bought a Wii myself for this very type of thing but it got stolen before September. Great article and glad it went well. I’m currently trying to get a new Wii to carry out this very thing. Will let you know how it goes.
    I’m going to try and get the children to collect their race times and we have a huge poster of the Stig on my classroom door. Once the kids have their time they then have to put their time in the correct place on the chart. Just another idea. Look forward to reading more.



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