College of the Rockies instructor pilots innovative gamified calculus course

College of the Rockies

College of the Rockies calculus instructor, Leslie Molnar, is teaching Differential Calculus in a fun new way. While fun and calculus are not words that most of us think go together, Molnar has found the means to make it a reality – through gamification.

The Winter 2017 Differential Calculus (MATH 103) online course had two types of gamification elements incorporated into the curriculum. The course itself was presented in the form of a quest. The premise was that a ship containing a chest of precious emeralds sank and two competing factions of a pirate crew are following clues to find the emeralds.

Students earn skills (like the ability to fight, to not get seasick, to learn about ocean lore, etc) through their understanding of a calculus topic. With each new topic, there is a new adventure to participate in and puzzle to solve.

The second way in which gaming is incorporated is in the course’s methodology. Following the philosophy of a video game, students are not penalized for a lack of success the first time they face a challenge. As mastery of the topics is the goal, there are no time limits and no restrictions on the number of times a student can try an assignment or a quiz. The student cannot move onto the next topic, however, until he or she has reached an 80% threshold on their current topic. This repetition of the material means many students are redoing assignments and quizzes until they achieve 100 percent on them.

The course still contains all the content of a first-year calculus course, as well as set dates for traditional supervised midterm and final exams.  Students need to complete to the halfway point prior to the midterm and be finished all course materials before the final exam.

Read more about the pilot program here.