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Using Internet access devices in Mathematics lessons

Laptops in Maths
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Case Study - Economic Simulation


Adapted from material produced by the former Becta organisation - Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

Of all the different types of pure computer and video games, the economic simulation game is still the one most frequently found in schools, and the range of games used within this genre has increased steadily.

In the following examples of economic simulations being employed in an educational context, the games used are standard retail products, and the value they offer to education is not measured in terms of factual information gained but in terms of skills acquired and motivation achieved.

Joy Thompson, a teacher at Beverley St Nicholas Community Primary School, East Riding of Yorkshire LEA, has used Zoo Tycoon with a Year 5 and 6 group of special needs children who have trouble co-operating and concentrating for any length of time.

Zoo Tycoon allows players to build a zoo, stocking it with animals and income-generating services - for example, fast food stands - while ensuring that the animals have the correct environment, food, playthings and so on.

Joy projected the game on to a board and a radio mouse was passed around the class so that different children could control it. As the children developed one zoo between them, they honed their discussion, justification, strategic development and co-operative skills.

Says Joy: "After we'd been playing for a couple of weeks, a giraffe escaped because we made a false economy and didn't get the right sort of fencing, but we'd also had two baby penguins, because we'd lavished loads of money on them."

In terms of the curriculum, the game covered the National Numeracy Unit 'money and real life problems', but as it requires players to acquire animal knowledge in order to make informed decisions, it is also relevant to other areas of the curriculum such as geography. It also has the potential to spark debate along a number of tangential topics - for example, should animals be caged, and should a zoo owner's priorities be making maximum profits or preserving animal populations?

A similar game, School Tycoon, was used at Park View City Learning Centre in Birmingham. Instead of a zoo, this game simulates a school from a business perspective, with a headteacher who needs to balance the books while providing a satisfactory educational experience for students.

The game was played by three groups of 30 pupils. Each group created a school on a fixed budget, and then used the game for an hour to progress the school through an academic period of time.

At the end of the hour, the financial and academic results of each school were compared to find the most 'successful'. This provided the stimulus for a discussion about why some of the schools worked and some didn't.

Says teacher Stephen Fessey: "School Tycoon allowed us to get the children to develop their spatial thinking skills, fiscal skills, numeracy and even social awareness."

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