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Middle School Girls Become Math Game Designers

Over the summer, I had the pleasure to join MIND Research Institute’s lead mathematician, Brandon Smith (@bds_math), in piloting MIND’s Math Maker workshops in an all-girls environment with Girls Inc. of Orange County at their Eureka! Summer Camp.

Eureka! Summer Camp is a 4-week program for 6-9th grade girls. In addition to inspiring “all girls to be strong, smart and bold”, a goal of Eureka! is to expose middle school girls to various STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers that they would have otherwise not considered as a potential field of study in college.

As an alumna of Girls Inc. (Class of 2012) and participant of Eureka!, I was very excited to be back in the environment that encouraged me to gain confidence in myself while having the opportunity to try many hands-on activities that inspired deep mathematical thinking. This experience helped transform me into a more confident problem solver and prepare me for high school and beyond.

Why STEM?

An outstanding 75% of middle school girls who participate in STEM clubs or activities say they feel powerful when they do STEM activities. This is great news because organizations, such as Girls Inc. and MIND, have the opportunity to encourage and provide girls with engaging STEM experiences that will propel them to turn their interests into action (i.e. pursuing STEM-related fields in college and their careers).

This is extremely important, especially during this time of their lives, because the research shows that girls start losing interest in math and science during middle school. The lack of interest may be due to multiple factors such as the stereotype that suggests girls perform poorly in math, the low confidence in their abilities, not having female STEM role models to look up to, or other. Regardless of the reason, we need to start molding girls' perceptions and attitudes about STEM and showing them that they too have the ability to excel in those fields.

What is Math Makers?

The Math Maker workshops is a pilot program that guides students through the process of designing their own math game. At the end of the program, students will not only hold a product of their own creation but have developed new skills in effective game design.

Girls Inc Math MakersA group of middle school girls working together to design their own math game.

Workshop #1: Play Time

The first day, students played a collection of MIND's math games, which gave them an idea of the possibilities when creating games. This also allowed them to test their perseverance when solving the various math puzzles.

As Brandon mentioned,

When you feel stuck, that's when you are learning.

-Brandon Smith, Lead Mathematician, MIND Research Institute

Workshop #2: Game Creation & Testing

On the second day, the girls collaborated to design their own math game through the ideation process. This involved making their own set of rules and solutions. Through this exercise, many of the girls came to realize that there can be multiple ways to arrive to a solution.

The most important part, however, involved the play-testing of their games. It's important to play-test, gather informative feedback, and go back to the forming stage of game design to create the best version of a game possible. 

At the end of camp, the girls were able to showcase their math games to their families and friends. It was a great opportunity for families to come together in a fun and collaborative environment as well as see the innovation and creativity of the girls.

If we can inspire girls (and boys too) to become designers, creators and problem solvers, we're on our way to preparing them to solve the world's most challenging problems!

Learn more about the programs and initiatives at MIND Research Institute: 

empower problem solvers

Edith Esparza

About the Author

Edith Esparza is an Education Engagement Specialist at MIND and loves sharing her passion for learning. Follow her on Twitter: @EdithEsparza_EE

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