Lockdown changed the world in which we live. Social distancing and isolating at home also meant for many of us, combining home-working with home-schooling. This was a real challenge for us here at Sliced Bread, as the first few weeks of lockdown was filled with frantic activity completing projects, with our team spread out over London, and coordinating working from home. The time after project completion was calm and reflective. It was during this time that we gained valuable insights into our daughter’s school life, the way the curriculum is taught and what it means to try and learn alone, online and without the company of your peers. Without the fun, her interest in getting any regular school work done dropped dramatically, within just the first few weeks.
As our clients were re-thinking their communication – and marketing strategies, projects in our pipeline were delayed. And while we didn’t have the need to furlough any of our team, we made use of the freed up resources and embarked on a journey that would bring the fun back into learning for our 10 year old daughter, Lilly. Together with her, we developed a maths online learning game, that brings the fun back into getting really good with maths times-tables.
It is a proven fact that gamification helps learning retention. And although Lilly’s school offers some gamification to make maths more fun, we quickly had to find out that the game ‘TT Rockstar’, which is the school’s way of luring their pupils into the adventures of maths, had lost all its appeal.
Why was that? Being a rockstar sounds fun, with increasing maths skills the little players can work their way up from groupie to to rockstar. It’s competitive, there’s a leaderboard and the aim is to simply get to the top, outwit the others with impressive times-tables knowledge.
But what do you do when competitiveness is only a small motivator for your child? When your child simply doesn’t want to be a rockstar, but her own person, for which they can create their own personality and name?
It was decided that being able to create her own character and choosing her own look, is also essential to her maths journey becoming successful . Having a customisable avatar is such an important factor to her that the possibility of getting ‘extra skins’ to dress her character in, after completing a maths level in extra short time, is a real incentive for her to do well with her maths.
And secondly, we needed a story. A story that actually speaks to Lilly, a story that evokes the right emotion in her to keep her going ‘when times are tough’ and she has to solve times tables equations over and over again. A story that makes her passionate enough to keep her practising essential maths skills, without feeling the pain.
To come up with a story that is relatable to her own life we gathered the following thoughts:
Lilly likes travelling. If she could, she’d pack her best friends into a camper van tomorrow and would travel the world with them. What Lilly is also passionate about, is ice cream!
Put these two together and you have an Ice cream van to travel around the globe. Now throw applied maths into the mix and your story is bound to revolve around an ice cream van business.
Ah, and did I mention animals? Lilly loves animals – In her eyes, penguins are best suited to ice cream. Besides, their ‘buttler-like’ appearance and reserved flair offer themselves perfectly for story characters with a slightly mischievous or darker side.
So, this is what we came up with:
The player starts their journey in a shop run by penguins, where he/she can kit out the character.
But, oops, as soon as the customisation is completed the shop assistant opens a secret trap door and the player slides into an underground ‘mission control centre’, populated by penguins. Penguins sitting in front of screens showing places from all over the planet, with berry orchards, some screens are tracking a van and a polar bear. The big, main screen addresses the player and reveals the story (pic here) and player purpose.
The penguins on the South Pole are about to revolt. The ice cream shortage has become intolerable.. Their last load of ice cream with flavours from around the world was due weeks ago, but the ice cream van that normally brings the delicious load, never showed up! Turns out the ice cream van owner has abandoned his duty of collecting the berries of ever so exotic flavours essential for the cool, luxurious load that the penguins are waiting for.
The penguin ministerium has located the van and driver but had no success persuading the driver to resume his duty. They are urgently looking for a successor to step in and save the day. Can you help?
Yes? – Then board the van and get equipped with the fruit collector to tackle your first Maths Berry Orchard. All berries display numbers, but only a few fit the equation that is displayed above the collection device. Only collect the ‘right’ berries that match the equation. The wrong berries spoil the flavour. Two ‘right’ berries must be collected to make up for a ‘wrong’ berry picked. Be as quick as you can filling up the device. If you manage to fill up the device before the time is up, you’ve unlocked the next level and can drive to the next exotic orchard.
After completing 3 levels of various difficulties you will be able to drive the van directly to the South Pole where a crowd of cheering penguins will eagerly await you.
In those few weeks that we had available for this fun project we’ve completed the first level for a playable experience. With the remaining time we are giving the character customisation the last tweaks. Have a little go yourself and refresh your own math skills.