I got my son Minecraft for his XBox 1 system for Christmas last year and he has learned quite a bit about it. He was very patient in explaining the different aspects about the game. He offered me a choice of playing “creative” or “survival” world. He stated it was easier to play in creative, so I went with it. His mind was going a million miles a minutes, while I was just trying to get used to looking, moving, placing objects, and removing them! He tried to ask what I want to do, but I was trying to build a stone house with glass window, iron door with a button on the outside wall and a pressure switch on the inside (my son’s ideas), and a full glass wall facing the water. I repeatedly was trying to place stones in places that weren’t going where I wanted. My son respectfully told me to see the highlighted area next to placed items and if I hit left trigger, it would place the stone there. It was quite a learning process. When the house was done, I went through the door about 4 times, amazed that I created a tiny home and was able to move around in a virtual world. He warned me that if I don’t go through the door quickly after pressing the button, I wouldn’t be able to go in the house, and because I had a pressure switch inside, all I had to do was walk over it and go through the door. I began to get rid of grass outside my house and it started to get dark out. He suggested I go back to my house to sleep, but I needed a bed first. Oh my gosh there are a lot of items! I placed my bed in the house and he told me how to sleep. It was morning now.
That took about half an hour, and it was all that I could absorb in a new game. I consider myself a gamer (well from the 80s anyway) and this Minecraft experience was amazing. I can understand the allure of creating a world of your own and living in it. The possibilities are infinite, literally. My son wanted to play after me (in my world), but I sternly said “NO, not in my world, do it in yours!” I did get to shoot a bow and arrow and killed a pig. And there are many other activities I could do. I told my son that I would come back and play more later, with his help.
Now that I have a taste of what this game entails, I began thinking about what I could have my students do in my high school math class. The two activities that intrigued me were using coordinates, and building structures. I found out how you can determine your coordinates from a map, and so it would make sense to create a game similar to Geocashing. I would create objects for students to find, or have them create objects with the local resources at certain coordinates. There are many types of rocks, minerals, and materials to make stuff so I would have to be creative in determining what they could make. I don’t know how I could give clues at this time, but I would make sure and plan all that ahead of time.
Another use of coordinates (I don’t know if it’s possible) is to create structures with mathematical formulas or equations. My son showed how it’s possible to build structures into the air and then take lower level blocks away, so it floats. I thought that was cool. I can probably utilize this feature in creating mathematical structures. Students would have to model on paper how to create the structure, but then use Minecraft to build it.
The other game I could create is to have students make three-dimensional structures, like from Geometry: pyramids, spheres, prisms, cylinders, cones, and compositions of these. I could have students estimate volume, surface area, and calculate ratios and proportions. Or they can create 3D mathematical models like a torus, a Mobius strip, or mathematical equation (cube fractal).
I suppose if I had more time and put more effort into this endeavor, I could create a great game that can be used with Minecraft! I need to first play more on the world I created. My son is willing to help me explore and learn how things work in this game. I watched him play after me and he was stunning. He was building structures and excavating with ease and SPEED, and was having fun using TNT to blow things up! He found an underwater castle that he’s been looking for, and found underground caverns under the sea and land. He was doing whatever he wanted, and I suppose that’s the point…
Minecraftopia (2016) How to Play Minecraft. Retrieved from http://www.minecraftopia.com/how_to_play_minecraft
Fryer, W. (2015). MinecraftEDU Redstone Engineering Challenge. STEM Curricular Resources by Dr. Wesley Fryer. Retrieved from http://stem.wesfryer.com/home/minecraft/redstone
Miller, A. (2012). Ideas for Using Minecraft in the Classroom. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/minecraft-in-classroom-andrew-miller
Miko, C. (2014) Craft-Academy: Educational Minecraft. Retrieved from http://www.craft-academy.com/
Minecraft Wiki. (2016) Coordinates. Retrieved from http://minecraft.gamepedia.com/Coordinates