How to Make Math Exciting for Kids Using a Zombie Apocalypse
How can kids relate to math when they assume they’re just not a “math person”? How can educators engage students who think math doesn’t matter? And how can we connect math to things that kids already love?
Case Study: Using Zombies and Choose-Your-Own-Adventure to Engage Students with Math When creating our Zombie Apocalypse: Choose-Your-Own-Adventure camp, we wanted to make math really shine. The camp immerses kids in the (not-so-scary) world of a Zombie Apocalypse. A world where we need to understand anatomy to know how zombies work, where chemistry gives you an extra edge to survive, and physics and engineering are key to creating survival tools.
So why did the kids get so excited about the math? We used math to create a connection to things they really cared about:
What time should we get back from foraging for supplies when there is a herd of zombies a couple miles down the street traveling at a certain average rate towards our base?
If carrying gallons of water and bags of food makes me a lot slower, how much can I carry and still get back before the zombies come?
A herd of 12 zombies come upon our group of 8. We have a 60% chance of eliminating a single zombie with each try, how much of our budget should we spend on ammunition?
We used these types of scenarios to allow students to “Choose-Your-Own Adventure” and survive the zombie apocalypse. Kids soon realized they could make informed decisions and choose the right answer using math! The right answer which could lead them to uncovering a horde of food and supplies. Or an answer that could lead to a zombie breathing down their neck. Our scenario may not be “real”, but it was real in their worlds. And the kids were excited because it mattered to them.
We would typically include one scenario mid-day, and one cliffhanger at the end of each day that we would only reveal when they returned the following morning.
This is what happened:
We saw collaboration, critical-thinking, and problem-solving. When they realized that they needed math to figure out the problem, they were actually begging us to teach them the math skills!
We heard kids were so excited about the scenarios, they kept asking when they would get the next one. They were actually excited about doing math problems.
Parents told us some kids would talk about the scenarios the whole way home and try to figure out more that night. They couldn’t wait to come back to see if their problem-solving worked. Parents were excited to see their kids learning in an environment that was engaging, exciting, creative, and fun, and wished that they could learn like this all the time.
Ready to use science to bring your favorite worlds to life? Contact us to find out more about how we can help your school or program develop STEM/ STEAM programs that are engaging, exciting, creative, and fun!