Breaking barriers in middle school mathematics grant

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    Jessica Crittendon

    Hello everyone! I’m here to tell you about my learning innovation grant. I’m a 7th grade math teacher at Louisa Middle School in Lawrence County, Kentucky. The first eight years of my career, I taught band to grades 6-12, and I’m now entering my 4th year as a math educator. As I switched from an elective class to a required regular education class, the biggest challenge that I faced was to motivate students who didn’t choose to take my class.

    Motivating 12-year-olds has proven to be quite the challenge, but last year, I stumbled upon a website called that offers content-related breakout games and supplies. I had participated in several breakout or escape games in different cities and I love them, but I’d never really thought about doing one in a classroom setting. After borrowing a kit from a colleague, we had our first game in class reviewing and applying content from the first two units of instruction. It was a huge success and my students begged for more! Our second game was a halloween theme, where I dressed as the grim reaper and didn’t speak the entire class as students dug in pumpkins and raced to solve content-related riddles and puzzles. We did two more: a santa’s workshop theme, and an Egyptian theme.

    My students looked forward to the games. We saw huge growth in our MAP scores with a 68% novice reduction from fall to spring and a 53% increase in proficient/distinguished students. While I’m certainly celebrating these gains, I still had very poor participation in homework/classwork assignments, which I’m certain would have promoted even stronger student achievement. When I was presented with the opportunity to apply for a grant for my classroom, I was SO excited to try to more intentionally relate escape games to instructional outcomes. My plan for this grant is to use the money to buy some kits from (that can be used by anyone else in my district that wants to try this with their students) and to use the rest of the money to buy some very “cool” theming and novelty items to make the games even more fun and engaging for students. I’m going to tie this into instructional outcomes by making the first game for everyone, and making it as fun as my creativity will allow. In order to qualify to participate in subsequent games, students must have turned in ALL work and have at least an 80% in classwork/homework grades to participate. I plan to handout a printout with their missing work about a week before the game and allow them time to get things turned in. If they’re still missing work, instead of a fun activity, they will be completing missing work to turn in while everyone else participates in the escape game. I’m optimistic that this will be a great motivator for students.

    I cannot wait to do my first escape game on Thursday September 26! Jurassic Park Theme! (shhhhh… don’t tell my students. It’s a surprise!)

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