Fractions Are Fun, Any Way You Slice It
By Jennifer Jordan
When your game jam team includes a member of your target audience, it’s very easy to get immediate and relevant feedback about your game idea. Such was the case for team Pizza Posse, a diverse group in age and background that worked together seamlessly to develop a concept around gaming and fractions.
Joe Casente is a 6th grade student and member of team Pizza Posse. His inside knowledge made him the perfect choice for Creative Director. During the domain analysis phase it was he who targeted fractions as being a difficult subject to master in school. He noted this concept is generally taught to 3rd grade students, but is something many students continue to struggle with in later grades. Based on this insight the team decided to create a game that teaches fractions, and they used a mode that no 3rd grader (or 6th grader) can resist – pizza!
Since education transformation was a critical piece to this particular game jam, every game created must align with a learning objective based on the common core standards used in public schools. Pizza Posse’s game incorporates third grade standards for fractions found in the CCSS Math Content 3 NFA 1, 2, 3.
During the prototyping phase the team decided how their pizza game would actually work. Rather than make small, personal sized pizza kits, the team opted to create a giant floor pizza similar in style to a Twister floor mat. The large size promotes kinesthetic play, getting students up and moving around the pizza. Popsicle sticks taped together divide the pizza into slices, and toppings are physical objects that students manipulate and scatter along the top. Recipe cards provide topping combinations that students arrange creating portions that represent the concept of fractions. One very eclectic pizza combination is aptly named the King Kong Krazy pizza, combining ground beef, banana slices, gummy worms, and even sky scrapers as toppings. Delicious? Probably not. But wacky and engaging? Definitely!
During game testing the team flushed out potential problems. They realized they needed a tiered level system that grows in difficulty. Level 1 is titled Simple Slices and practices easier to master fractions like halves and thirds. Level 2 is called Meaty Yummy and includes harder fractions like eighths. The hardest level is Level 3 and is where we find the now famous King Kong Krazy pizza. These levels serve as an assessment for students’ progress throughout gameplay and include relevant problems to solve, such as what happens when you realize one of your friends is a vegetarian?!
The learning objective goes beyond fractions, too. The core concept is breaking whole numbers into pieces and understanding the relationship between those pieces, so this game applies to ratios, decimals, and percentages as well.
Pizza Posse went all out when it came to branding and product extensions. Their follow-up activities integrate nutritional concepts through assembling and cooking real pizzas, as well as physical education by making the game an outdoor race. They also integrate community outreach ideas by targeting local business, such as pizza parlors, where students explore a working business model and make real world connections.
Game Jam judges recognized that this game has curriculum relevancy, student interest, and is fast to market. They were impressed with the level of thought in all phases of the process, and loved how well the group worked together to create a fast and fun final product.
Pizza Posse, we are so happy to have had your company and creativity at our Stanford Game Jam. Keep us up to date on your progress, game testing, and next steps!
Special Thanks to IDEO, Epicenter, Prezi, Google, Pearson, Stanford d.School, Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, and Laurie Moore.