Sometimes, a thing can be incredibly successful, and still be misunderstood. Such is the case with our ‘Rock Paper Scissors’ module, which has been retooled and renamed RPS CHESS for 2016.
To better illustrate how these games employ strategic thinking skills, chess imagery has been merged with existing game icons. The fist (rock) moves like a KING; the open palm (paper) shows a ROOK image to connote movement like a rook; and the two fingers (scissors) icon incorporates a BISHOP image and corresponding characteristics.
“First In Math’s Rock Paper Scissors has so much depth, but we began to realize two things: that a name change could help convey the module’s true focus, and that we need to do a better job of explaining the games to educators,” says Cred Dobson, current First In Math Ambassador and former Mathematics Curriculum Academic Content Coach for the School District of Philadelphia’s Northwest Region.
“Mathematics is not limited to basic facts and procedures, and these games are valuable, mathematically-oriented activities that promote the development of thinking in logical steps and understanding proper sequencing skills,” says Dobson. “The greatest stumbling block that students face when moving into higher-area math is the lack of logical thought processes.”
All students need to learn HOW to think, not just what to think, says Dobson. “When studying algebra, students learn how to reason, and RPS CHESS promotes that same kind of thinking—in logical steps from the simple level to more complex levels. It helps students develop and practice strategic thought processes. For this reason alone, the RPS CHESS games are crucial, but within the framework of the FIM site, they also serve as a base to launch the presentation of other logical, thought-provoking games. Building brain-power in students is a multidimensional process!”
“Cred’s insight into the value of developing higher-order mathematical thinking is spot-on,” says Robert Sun, creator of the First In Math program. “RPS CHESS games build the ability to follow a series of logical steps, and this is not an easy thing to teach. In reality, we can’t really teach kids to do things; we can only teach them to practice things.”
According to Sun, an activity designed to build strategic thinking skills also benefits greatly from a familiar framework that kids already know and love, because it encourages the amount of repetitive play needed to build these skills. “I chose Rock-Paper-Scissors because it is one of the few games where the pieces capture each other in a circular fashion, and it is well understood by many people. Combining this unique feature with the parameters of how certain chess pieces move is the innovation that transforms a common children’s game into one that requires rigorous strategic thinking to play well.”
Unfortunately, some teachers who had not tried the game online associated it with the original Rock-Paper-Scissors they occupied themselves with as children, which required little thinking.
“An activity like RPS CHESS develops higher mental processes as we create hypotheses, make predictions, and fine-tune our expectations,” explains Sun. “In addition, every one of these games shows kids mathematical ideas in a spirit of play, which is a big and often hidden part of the true spirit of math.”
“The games, especially MASTER RPS CHESS, are difficult, but also for many kids kind of addictive, which means they strengthen their ability to focus on a complicated skill for the length of time it takes to master it. Math needs that.”