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NMSU Math Snacks program films teacher training video with help of students

  • By Adriana M. Chávez
  • 575-646-1957
  • Jul 17, 2019
Students and teachers in a classroom being filmed

Sixteen students from 11 elementary schools played video games on the New Mexico State University campus this past weekend in hopes of helping teachers worldwide.

The students are fifth-graders from Doña Ana, Desert Hills, Tombaugh, University Hills, Hillrise, Conlee, White Sands, Mesilla Valley and Hermosa elementary schools, as well as J. Paul Taylor Academy, in Las Cruces, and from John Baker Elementary School in Albuquerque. The students spent Saturday, July 13, at the STEM Outreach Center in O’Donnell Hall recording a “Teaching With” video lesson, which will serve as professional learning for teachers across the globe.

The “Teaching With” video will be used to help teachers understand the newest Math Snacks game, Curse Reverse, in which players maneuver through imaginary archaeological sites using algebraic expressions. Blocks with defined and variable values form pre-algebra riddles that players solve to reach treasures.

“Understanding that variables can represent quantities is key to students’ pre-algebra learning,” said Sara Morales, assistant director of the STEM Outreach Center at NMSU. “The game’s challenges and storytelling build conceptual understanding, fostering engagement and learning.”

The “Teaching With” video will showcase how students respond to the game, and demonstrate how to integrate the game within classroom instruction.

“It’s a great way to build confidence for teachers who may be new to game-based learning,” Morales said. “By watching how learning unfolds in a classroom, they pick up great strategies they can use immediately. Teachers can also watch a gameplay video to see how the game progresses if they don’t have time to play it all the way through.”

Not only did the students have fun playing Curse Reverse, but they were able to dive deeper into their math discourse, collaboration, concepts and strategic thinking.

“Early algebra concepts have become an important field of study over the past 20 years, and we are making progress in understanding upper elementary students’ thinking processes,” said Chris Engledowl, NMSU mathematics education assistant professor who is part of the Math Snacks research team. “Our goal is to help teachers find ways to engage students in meaningful mathematics and rich discussion that will scaffold their learning of early algebra.”

Other members of the Math Snacks team include Terri Stockberger, lead teacher and bilingual teacher at Valley View Elementary School; Barbara Chamberlin, project director of the Learning Games Lab at NMSU; Tomilee Turner, associate director of Innovative Media Research and Extension at NMSU; Art Ruiloba, video producer for Innovative Media Research and Extension; Ted Standford, NMSU mathematics professor; NMSU graduate assistant Ruth Constansa Torres Castillo and former graduate assistant Gaspard Mucundanyi; Morales; and Engledowl.

Math Snacks Early Algebra is generously funded by the National Science Foundation. To learn more about Math Snacks games, animations, and the research and development process visit