Curiosity Based Learning with 100 Floors iPhone App

From Floor 1, you can tell what you have to do.

I’ve become slightly addicted to this free iPhone game called 100 Floors. It has strange and interesting parallels to leraning math.

It has no instructions and no hints. And upon first entry to the app, you feel lost, confused and annoyed. (Already starting to sound like a math problem, right?)

Based on the name of the game and the view of “Floor 1,” it’s clear that the idea is to open each set of elevator doors.

But with just a bit of patience and curiosity, you find yourself challenged just enough on each subsequent floor to keep going.

And you have no idea what to do next.

With each floor you’re not sure what to do.

So you start doing seemingly random things. You notice yourself bumping the phone. Tilting the phone. Shaking it. Blowing on it (I know, that isn’t a feature yet, but I tried anyway).

You tap and drag everything on the screen – including the ads.

(I even yelled into it – just in case that was the key to getting the doors open.)

And sometimes you just stare at it. Curious.

Remember – there’s no punishment for failure.

This one is my favorite!

If you can’t get the doors open immediately, no big deal. If you look, shake, yell, bump, tap and tilt with no results… okay.

So what? Who gives a fuzzy red rat’s tail?

You might turn off the phone and go mow the yard.

But those closed elevator doors stay in your mind. So you’ll come back at some point. You’ll open the app and check it out.

Just one more time.

Just to see…

And when the doors open – yippee!

There’s no prize. There’s no grade. There’s no money.

But the excitement you have from getting those crazy doors open and seeing the green arrow is unimaginable!

“Cheating” is allowed.

Sharing a tip is something you do only if you want. Giving or getting a solution isn’t prohibited, but it’s fun to try to get the solution yourself.

So you choose what to share and what to ask for. Based on your own desires and curiosity.

And it’s the same as learning math.

This one almost killed me. Had to go do something else for a while and come back later.

So far I haven’t found an official math problem in the game. But the tactics, patience and curiosity that you use are exactly what learning math is all about.

In each new math problem, students may wonder, “What the heck do I do with this one?” Just like you do with those elevator doors.

And if there’s no punishment for trying nutty things, their curiosity will take them places.

Tapping, dragging, shaking and yelling into the phone might have made me look goofy. But Husband was nestled in his chair doing equally insane things to get his elevators to open.

But there IS punishment in learning math.

That’s where things diverge.

Performance based teaching is the basis of the typical math lesson. Math problems are given to the student. And the student is expected to give back the right answer.

If the right answer isn’t given, there are repercussions. Points are deducted or the failure is publicly noted. Or both.

And if you don’t have the right answer, you’re just not learning math.


(BTW – that’s a horrible myth!)

And “cheating” is all or none.

This one sort of turns out to be a math problem.

Either the teacher coaches step-by-step, or there is no tutor or teacher at all.

Think about the last time you did a math problem from a textbook with a teacher watching.

If you took the wrong path, you were quickly guided back on track. This was either with words, “Are you sure that’s what you need to do?” or with facial expressions.

Math students aren’t allowed to take or leave tips at will. And they sure aren’t allowed to give them when they want.

That’s cheating.

But isn’t that what grownups do when they “guide” students?

How do we change this?

How can we make learning math more like playing 100 Floors? How can we get students into the adventurous mode – tapping, shaking and doing anything they can to a math problem?

How do we get them to cheat on their own terms? And how do we get grownups to stop over cheating?

Share your thoughts in the comments. And share this article on twitter!

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3 Responses to Curiosity Based Learning with 100 Floors iPhone App

  1. Fascinating article. I would like to see my students play with math problems just like they play their video games. I want them to see that they can learn just as much or more from doing something that doesn’t work than from getting it right the first time.

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