How To Use Pokémon Go In Your Math Class
As a culturally relevant and responsive educator, I feel a deep sense of obligation to write this next post: How to use Pokémon Go in your math class. I know, I know. It’s a difficult job, but after waiting a few days and watching my Twitter list of math teachers roll by with no mention of how to leverage this Pokémon craze we seem to be going through, I knew that at some point I would have to take on the gargatuan task of how to incorporate this cultural phenomenon into our lesson plans.
All joking aside, I do think that its important that we acknowledge our cultural relevance to our students as much as we can. I’m sure many teachers can share in what I’m about to say, but I can’t begin to tell you how many times I was able to connect with students on the simple fact that I play video games on a regular basis.1 I’ve seen more than one pair of eyes light up when I talk about the latest Call of Duty or am open to a bigger discussion of what I think is wrong with the entire XBox platform (Playstation for life!). The ideas I’m about to share next aren’t exactly the best ideas in the world, but I thought of them off the top of my head as I’ve been playing Pokémon Go myself for the last few days. If you’re a math teacher yourself, here’s a few ideas of how to use Pokémon Go in your lesson plans. If you’re not a math teacher, be inspired and share with me how you’re thinking of using Pokémon in your respective subject areas. In any case, let’s share ideas! Here a few of mine in no particular order.
Idea #1: Conversion Practice from Kilometers to Steps
After teaching middle school math for the past few years, I could not believe how many of my students continued to have problems with conversion problems. Now that I’ve moved up to High School, I’m realizing what an epidemic this really is! But before I explain how Pokémon Go can help with conversion practice, here’s a bit of context from the game. If you know nothing about Pokémon Go, one of the really beautiful things about this game is that You have to go outside to play. More specifically, one of the best ways to level up your character is to hatch “eggs” that you get at PokéStops in game and hatching eggs is directly tied to how much you walk! For example, if you’re trying to hatch a 2km egg, you put the egg in the incubator and then walk 2km with your phone in your pocket in order to get it to hatch.
Here’s the rub: Pokémon Go is a game played mostly in America (where I happen to live) and last time I checked, we have no idea what to do when it comes to the metric system. So in order to give your students a frame of reference how far they’d have to walk, what a great way to have them calculate how many steps they’d need to take to hatch their eggs! Yes, you heard me right, I’m not suggesting we convert to the stupid Imperial system we use in the US. Just have your students convert the Km in their games to step. Better yet, make it an in-class project. Have all your students measure their own personal stride lengths. Given the ubiquitous nature of yard sticks in our classrooms, you’ll probably need to convert from feet to meters anyway, but what a great way to have them calculate their own stride length and relate it to how long it would take to hatch an egg or two? I really haven’t thought too hard about it, but I can already think of some great discussion questions off the top of my head like, “If you’re supposed to take 10,000 steps per day, how many eggs will you hatch in that number of steps?”
Idea #2: Ratios & Proportions
If you’re in a state where your math standards are based on the infamous Common Core Standards2, a foundation in Ratios & Proportions begins to be a part of the curriculum starting in the 6th grade and is probably one of the most important mathematical concepts students will have to master in order to be successful at higher levels of math. Here are just a few ideas that have been percolating in my mind in terms of how to incorporate Pokémon into a Ratios & Proportions unit:
- Reinforce academic language in a given PokéContext (you see what I did there?). For example, Ash Ketchum is catching 2 Pokémon every 6 minutes while Brock is catching 5 Pokémon every 15 minutes. Are they catching Pokémon at an equivalent rate or are is one person catching them faster than the other? How do you know? (7.RP.A.2.A) What is the “constant of proportionality” for each person? (7.RP.A.2.B)
- Do a class survey and have each student report the number of water Pokémon they have caught compared to the number of fire Pokémon, or find the ratio of Red Team members there are to Yellow Team members. Think of literally any kind of class survey ratio question that come to mind and it will probably work to make an interesting class discussion.
- Have a class discussion about controversial PokéTopics such as:
- Is it better to Power up a Rattata first or save your Stardust until you’re at a higher level?
- What is the best Pokémon to level up in terms of their CP to Candy ratio?
- Should you spend your coins on Lures or Lucky Eggs? Why or why not?
Idea #3: Statistics
What you may or may not realize about Pokémon Go is that this is a TREASURE TROVE of statistics questions and lessons. Ironically enough, I don’t actually have much to say about this other than I’m going to leave it up to you to design your own class survey and figure out how to use Pokémon Go in a statistics lesson and have students create a box and whisker plot or identify the line of best fit given your survey data. If you’re even more daring, have your students calculate the probability of the different items you can get at a PokéStop. For example, what is the probability of getting an egg at a PokéStop compared to the probability of a Razzberry?
Idea #4: Bring Pokémon to Desmos
I almost shouldn’t have to say this, but Desmos + Pokémon = Great Math Lesson. Here’s my final few recommendations:
- Draw a Pokémon of your choice! – Drawing art on Desmos is a GREAT way to reinforce so many of the important details of coordinate graphing, and familiarizing students with how to navigate their way around tables, equations, and graphs. Just by googling “How to Desmos Art” I found this fantastic Haiku Deck tutorial on how to draw on Desmos. Here’s a Dragonite on Desmos just to give you an idea of what is possible!
- Create a Desmos Activity on literally ANY of the ideas mentioned above – If you haven’t used the Activity Builder tool on Desmos, you have probably been living under a rock and as a result, haven’t even heard of Pokémon Go so all of this will be irrelevant anyway. But if you have every wondered about how to use the Activity Builder, stop wondering and start building. Go to teacher.desmos.com for some inspiration or here to learn about it from the Desmos Team themselves.
So there it is folks! Those are some of the many ideas I have already thought of about how to use Pokémon Go in your Math class. Are you a non-math teacher who stumbled across this blog post? Contact me on Twitter @mathmattics and let me know if you have any ideas about how to incorporate Pokémon into your own respective subject areas. I’d love to hear from you and share your ideas here as well!