Curriculum News

Curriculum News

Fictional Animals

As soon as you step into the world of Radix, you notice the animals. Big and small, cute and creepy, a seasoned Radix traveler has seen it all. But what you may not think much about is how the Radix game designers decided what animals to put in the game. Some animals are quite realistic, like the teebeedee bird and the polka fish. But others, such as the plumebill or the spekkler, are not quite like anything you've seen before here on Earth. They may have certain characteristics in common with real world animals, but they are still very unique.

From a gameplay point of view, it's more interesting to explore a new world full of animals and plants you've never seen. It's exciting and exotic! But fictional species help accomplish our learning objectives as well. Radix encourages players to explore and explain this new world, and it's certainly more challenging to explain a world of creatures you've never seen before. These creatures are realistic enough that knowledge of the Radix ecosystems can certainly transfer to the real world. However, the only way to find out what traits and genetics these creatures have is to use your trait examiner tool on them and to try breeding them yourself. In addition, having a fresh new set of content means players are all starting on the same level. No one can bring prior knowledge of specific animal behaviors and use it as an advantage, which ensures that no external information is necessary. Everything players need to know they can discover within the game, and that's where both the fun and learning happen.

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Botanical Gardens


If Ysola had a botanical garden, it would look something like this! With plants from all the biomes growing together in one place you can see the rich array of vegetation that grows across the island. Bright grassland feltspittles, slimy forest jelly hats, and curly swampy helix weed. Each plant has unique traits and attributes to explore in the world. Use your measure tool to compare the heights of different plants. Use the trait examiner to collect color data on the shades of mushroom colors and use statistics to describe that distribution. Play through quests to discover medicinal uses and nutritional properties of the plants too.

At first glance it may seem that the plants in Radix are just decorative, or there to set the scene. But once you explore them further you will see what an integral part of the game and the Ysolian culture they really are. This is not by accident and it's not just for fun. By giving them measurable properties, genetic traits, and narrative value, the plants enable players to make a lot of discoveries on their own, in the domains of both math and biology. Players looking at leaf stickiness for one quest might also discover the fascinating recessive color pattern they have. This encourages inquiry and motivates players to keep exploring, which are important design goals for the Radix game.

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Math Content in Radix

We frequently field questions and concerns over the math content in the game. Radix currently has six quest lines for math - two for algebra, three for geometry, and one for statistics. While the biology content in the game is primarily applicable to high school, the math is more flexible. During our pilot this spring, we found that the math content works well in a variety of settings. The topics work very well for middle school, particularly the algebra quest lines. For high school, the content level seemed a bit low at times, though teachers reported that the game is a good way to reinforce and review concepts. What we want math teachers to keep in mind is that the math quests emphasize problem solving and reasoning. Calculating area and perimeter is simple, but solving an optimization problem requires additional thought. In statistics, we are not asking players to calculate the mean of a data set, but rather ask them to think about how a data set is collected or what descriptive statistic is best to summarize a data set. We want to give players an opportunity to use both math concepts and mathematical thinking in order to solve problems in real world situations. For some players, the tasks will seem too easy, for some they will be quite difficult. Given all the variability, we're excited to get more feedback on how the math quests fit in with different grade and student ability levels. Drop us a note in the forums or contact us using the form on the website and let us know what you think!

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Lower Sabetlan Marketplace


Once you've finished the algebra quests in Sedge's Edge, you will have earned the right to trade in the legendary Lower Sabetlan Market. This is where the real wheeling and dealing goes on, but you have to be smart to get deals here. The secret to this marketplace is that the values fluctuate day by day. A clever trader will watch the market for a few days then pounce on a deal at the right moment. In addition, the quests given by Koling and Witani are open-ended and replayable. The quest-givers don't evaluate how well you did so it's up to you to decide if you could have done better, and compare your results with your fellow Curiosi.

Teachers, encourage your students to set goals for themselves or each other, such as seeing who can get the most zorbits possible, who's the first to get 20 fluffins, or who has the widest variety in their trading kit.

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Good Deal on Algebra

If you haven't played the algebra quest line, you're missing out on some good deals! Check out the marketplace at Sedge's Edge to see what merchants are willing to trade. Before you go, you should know that the marketplace doesn't operate on the usual currency system - instead it's barter-based, so you'll have to see what's in your trading kit then figure out what the best deal you can find is. You can trade multiple times to work your way up to a fortune, though you are limited by the trading tickets you are given. When you're done trading you can visit the broker to trade your goods in for zorbits. Some items in the market you may recognize and some you may not. Either way, you can't be sure which are the most valuable unless you use what you know about unit conversion and ratios. So what are you waiting for? Go get yourself some sizzgams and a few snipsnaps!

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The Island of Ysola


The island of Ysola has areas that spread across a variety of biomes and terrains. If you walk around the whole island you'll experience forest, grassland, swamp, volcanic desert, and even city environments. They each have their own charms, and possibly horrors as well, but we'll leave that up to you to discover. The educational benefit of having these varied environments is that not only will students come across different plants, animals, structures, and characters in each area, but they will be able to compare and contrast what they find. They can collect data about creatures and analyze it according to its source, and they can hypothesize about what may have caused differences in conditions and traits from biome to biome. The quest lines in the game facilitate this type of inquiry, but we hope that teachers and students will embark on their own independent investigations as well and get to know Ysola on an even deeper level.

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Selecting the Curriculum and Content Standards

The two main areas of focus for Radix are high school math and biology. We chose these as the initial content areas because we felt they provided many topic areas that lent themselves well to an MMO and also because they are the areas that our teams knows best. The challenge came in deciding which specific topics to cover in each domain.

Biology provides many wonderful opportunities for hands on labs and we didn’t want to try to replace any of that. Instead, we wanted the game to provide a place for students to experiment in ways they can’t do in classroom. For this first version of the game, we’ve selected genetics, ecology, evolution and human body systems. Players will be able to breed animals over several generations, advance time hundreds of years to see ecosystem and evolutionary effects and perform medical tests in order to diagnose and treat characters in the world. The biology standards are selected from the Next Generation Science Standards with details from the College Board Standards for College Success.

Math provided a bit more of a challenge. There is simply so much material to choose from. We knew that we wanted to cover geometry because the game lends itself well to measuring and building objects. We also wanted to cover probability and statistics and give students a chance to see applications of these topics in the MMO world. In the end, we added a small bit of algebra to the mix as well, specifically focusing on unit conversions and linear equations. The math curriculum now feels like it fits more into a 10th grade integrated math class. We really like this approach because as students play through the game, they see connections across areas of math, rather than just discrete topics. The math standards come from the Common Core State Standards with an emphasis on the math practices that are set out in the CCSS.

We spent several months debating exactly which standards to incorporate into the first version of this game. We plowed through syllabus after syllabus from classrooms all over the US, looked through pacing guides, read over statewide final exams and talked with our teacher consultants before we narrowed it down. We’re quite happy with what was finally selected and excited to be turning those standards into quests for the game.

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Prototype Testing With Students Begins

So what are we working on these days you might ask? There are many pieces that go into developing a game such as Radix but one of our main areas of focus for the 2012-2013 school year is testing prototypes with students. Well before the game is completely developed, we are hard at work testing out everything from narratives to in-game tools. Once we decide on a particular curriculum topic and create a quest, we make a prototype of that quest.These can be either simple computer based tasks or even paper activities that will mimic what students will do in the game. We have a great group of staff and students, both undergraduate and graduate who help us create and test these prototypes. We are currently working with four local teachers, two in math and two in biology who are allowing us to come into their classrooms and get feedback from their students.

These sessions with the students are extremely valuable to us and help inform many aspects of development. We learn about whether the content is at the right level, whether the tools are usable and whether students enjoy the activity overall. Students are generally very happy to tell us exactly what they do and do not like about the tasks and we’ve received some fabulous suggestions regarding art, storyline and how to offer in-game hints to complete quests. Over the next several months we’ll be testing activities for genetics, ecology, geometry, algebra and statistics.Stay tuned for more updates from the classroom!

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A Geometric Lens

One of the topic areas covered in The Radix Endeavor is geometry, and more specifically modeling with geometry. This can mean building things in the world that are made up of geometric shapes, as well as solving volume and surface area problems by approximating the shape of real-world objects with prisms. We’ve already created a bare-bones prototype and had high school students use it this summer.

What we found is that students took the basic prisms the prototype let them create and really ran with them! They created cities and geometric sculptures, and enthusiastically asked each other how to create the cool things they saw on each others’ screens. We loved the potential we saw in this tool and we hope to be able to incorporate this level of creative play in the final version of the game.

While the Radix shape-building toolset will be kept relatively simple, it’s fun to look at other places where spatial thinking and design skills could be applied. The Stata Center building right here at MIT is a real-world example of geometric shapes gone wild. And the delightful images from the Geo A Day blog show that there is no limit to what you can create when you see the world in terms of shapes. This kind of geometric lens on the world is something we strive to provide students who play Radix!

 

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The Radix Endeavor is an educational MMO game in development at The MIT Education Arcade, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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