Supporting the New Ontario Math Curriculum with Minecraft: Education Edition
Updated: Jul 16
With the announcement of the new Ontario Math curriculum for K-8, we at Fair Chance Learning have been considering what resources we can offer to support its adoption. Given our recent work with Minecraft: Education Edition (M:EE), it seemed like a great place to start; not to mention, Minecraft offers several tools that are well-suited to learning math.
Our Math-Focused Workshops in Minecraft: Education Edition
During the month of June, we offered a series of Minecraft workshops, all of which focused on varying topics. The final week was dedicated to subject-specific content; we explored how M:EE could be utilized to facilitate subjects such as social studies, science, and math. The great thing about teaching math through Minecraft, is it can be done as simplistically or complex as you’d like; you can teach spatial reasoning through building simple structures, or you can create a story-based adventure, using math to progress (see here to view and download the Decimal Dungeon world, created by the M:EE Team). Our Math-focused workshop explored both simple concepts, one can facilitate themselves, as well as the pre-made lesson plans offered on M:EE’s online database.
Math Activities that we Explored
Due to Minecraft’s open-ended nature, it leaves a lot to the imagination; for those still learning the basics, this can seem overwhelming, but do not underestimate the power of simplicity! There are several math-related concepts, which can be facilitated in M:EE with limited knowledge about the game. It is also important to keep in mind that your students will typically know more about Minecraft than you, and that’s okay; with a basic understanding, you can provide guiding instructions and let them handle the rest. Below are some math concepts we explored in our workshop, that you can facilitate through M:EE:
All that is required to support the learning of spatial reasoning is the ability to place blocks; have your students create a simple structure using minimal blocks (start with 5-7 and increase in difficulty as desired). Using either the Camera tool in Minecraft, or the device’s screen shot, students can take pictures from every angle. They can then share those screenshots with their peers, who must try and recreate the structure.
Another simple math activity involves some fencing and farm animals. Using an enclosed space, you can have students summon farm animals based on different probabilities. For example, for a 50/50 chance, summon two cows and pigs. After placing the animals in the area, they can break a single piece of the fence, leaving an opening. You can have them repeat the same process and track the outcome, and experiment with different probabilities.
Utilizing Existing Resources
Although some people like to create lesson plans themselves, it is worth mentioning the incredible work featured in the M:EE Math Lesson database. Keeping in mind that there are varying skillsets contributing to the lesson plans on the website, so some are more polished than others. However, it is a great way to expand your awareness of how Minecraft can support the learning of math, in an engaging way.
With the new math curriculum coming to Ontario, we were hoping to discuss how one can leverage M:EE to support some of the new concepts being added.
Social Emotional Learning (SEL):
There are many unplugged approaches to promoting SEL in the classroom, however it is also important to incorporate it digitally as well; many students have been experiencing remote learning as of late, so topics such as SEL and digital citizenship are as important as ever. This can be done in several ways, some of which we also focused on during our SEL Minecraft workshop.
Opportunities for conversation can occur organically when playing M:EE; we have observed students who overstep boundaries while interacting digitally with others. Whether intentionally (such as having a student who is breaking the creations of others), or not (students trying to help, without communicating as such), these moments are a great opportunity to promote conversations of emotional regulation.
Another way to approach SEL, is to approach it directly; in our workshop, we began with a quick five-minute activity where participants created a structure based on how they were feeling and shared it with the group. We then created a collaborative community, where participants contributed various structures and locations to support a thriving community. These activities fostered conversations with participants, such as the need for shelters and medical centres; resources to support the residents’ varying needs.
Although these examples may not directly link to SEL in a mathematical context, we believe that they can be used as guiding ideas while facilitating math through M:EE.
Over the past decade there has been a growing awareness of the importance of teaching coding at a young age; thankfully as a result, there have been increasing efforts to make learning how to code more digestible. Resources such as Code.org’s “Hour of Code” activities, provide step-by-step activities, which introduce coding in a logical way. Another great way to introduce coding is through Minecraft: Education Edition’s Codebuilder.
CodeBuilder is a naturally integrated tool, which allows users to make modifications to the game; it has several tutorials to help familiarize you with the available tools for tinkering, all of which provide step-by-step instructions to ensure you do not get lost. From our own experience, children love being able to modify Minecraft through Codebuilder; imagine taking something you enjoy and being able to modify it to add even more things you enjoy! Some examples of what’s achievable through CodeBuilder include: making a trail of flowers appear behind you as you walk, making the sky rain animals upon entering a text prompt, having a personal assistant to build things for you, there is hardly a limit to what is possible.
It is clear we are all in on Minecraft: Education Edition and the ways it can enhance learning in classroom. We hope to expand our supportive efforts through webinars and resources, which link M:EE and Curricular Connections.
If you have already begun to experiment with M:EE in the classroom, we would love for you to share your experience. Reach out at email@example.com.