Superhero Training School – Conflicting Ideas and a Brain Dump

“A healthy gamified classroom must include a variety of elements that build upon one another and create opportunities for effective communication and collaboration among students.”

– Michael Matera in Explore Like a Pirate

I’m at a place in my game where I am starting to have multiple good ideas, but no idea which I should choose. In this post, I am going to write my thoughts and try to organize them in a way that will make sense. Hopefully, writing the ideas out will help me make some decisions. I also hope that you will be inspired to incorporate some ideas into your games too.

Idea Conflict #1 – Items or Badges


My plan is for different Supers to provide side mission options. For example, Ironman could provide a side mission where students must figure out how a certain math concept is used in the world outside the classroom. This fits with Ironman’s character – he uses math all the time to solve problems that come up with his suit or on his missions. My plan is to have an ever increasing variety of side missions students could choose to go on. Some missions – like Ironman’s – would be continuous; students can complete that side mission once per unit. Some side missions will be one-time-only and some will be only for students who can find them.


Should I create an item for each side mission – Ironman’s Plasma Cannon – or should each successful side mission earn a badge?

On the one hand, the items are useful. On the other, the badges are collectible. The items are consumable and tradeable, but badges will eliminate the jeopardy effect. I’m leaning towards items, but am quite worried about the jeopardy effect. I can’t think of where I could give badges other than the side missions. I wonder if I will even need badges since students can redo any assessment and there will be lots of side mission opportunities.

Idea Conflict #2 – Plot



Do I want to use antagonists of my own creation or supervillains from various franchises?

Pros: Using supervillains would be easier because I can just grab images from the internet. Using my own characters would create a more unique storyline.

Cons: If I use existing villains, what could I use for my storyline? Why would the real superheroes leave a bunch of trainees to battle legit supervillains? If I use my own characters, how am I going to get images for the skirmishes and clashes?

I’ve also been toying with the idea that I am the villain. They find out at the end of the year and have to defeat me by showing they know more math collectively than I do alone. The communication could be audio clips with voice changed, me sitting in shadow with voice changed, random letters, encrypted notes that they have to solve math problems to read – basically my plot with the trio, but with just me instead. I could still use the Denominators as my henchmen. I do wonder what I could use as the enemy for my bigger reviews/clashes… What do you think?

Idea Conflict #3 – Include Assessments in game and Leader Boards

To include grades, or not to include grades, that is the question…

If I get the position I’m hoping to get, I will have the opportunity to spend class time on higher creativity problems. Students will have more opportunity to earn xp on main missions, something I didn’t think I would have the opportunity to do. As a result, I’m rethinking my “star” system. I think I’ll keep the stars, but add another column to convert them to xp. If I were to NOT include their concept checks (quizzes) in xp, how can I show their importance – other than grades. Maybe that is where they earn badges?… If I eliminate stars as the sole “xp” and introduce real xp, what can I use for a currency to buy more cards? I don’t want them to use their xp.

Maybe stars can be used like gold and that is the currency they can use to buy cards? Would that overpower the students who have higher grades? I don’t want that to happen, but I want to show the value of retaking the assessments. Thoughts?

I also started thinking…I think a group and class leader board could be beneficial.  They ARE in training to become legit superheroes, so I wouldn’t be a stretch to say that only the best can actually form a new superhero group. Students would be able to earn more xp on side missions and main missions than on the concept checks. Do you think that difference, and the fact that there would be no individual leader board, would make it okay to include the assessments? Would achievers’ motivation be dampened with no individual leader board? Maybe make it optional? I don’t know…

Brain Dump

Below is a list of all the ideas I randomly thought of (usually while trying to fall asleep) and wrote in my Google Keep. Feel free to steal any ideas you like…

Breaking the 4th Wall – Project a frame with Deadpool on it every time I break the 4th wall and talk about the game, game mechanics, etc with students. Deadpool, because of his character traits, should probably not be in the game otherwise. idk…maybe he can be on a sabotage card…(secret side quest).

Find more real looking (proportional heads) Bitmoji substitute and use it to make characters.

When a new character is introduced and their power is found out – a side quest is released where students design their own version of the characters. First character is the Denominators.

At the beginning of each unit (on test day from previous unit?), the antagonist leaves a riddle in some way (altered voice, unaltered voice, video, paper slid underfoot mysteriously). The riddle includes clues about what the subject of the next puzzle is going to be. Students who can figure out the topic the riddle is alluding to get additional xp. If students come to class the next day and no one solves the clue, then the “experts at SHIELD” solved it. This makes it where students can start working right away without wasting class time.

Side quests (and secret side quests) are presented to students by different supers. (For The Incredibles secret side quest, password is CRONOS. Hint is given that student has to “be incredible” to solve the side quest). The side quests all somehow incorporate something valued or important to that super along with math content. For example, the black panther can be about reducing the spread of disease in Africa, Ironman can be about how mathematics can be used in the tech industry, Captain America can be about misrepresenting data in media…

Completing a super’s quest earns the player that super’s card. More powerful supers have stronger cards. Secret missions are the strongest cards. Some cards are 1 use only and some are luck (dice-roll) based and can break. Better cards require more work to earn. Low quality work may need to be improved before card can be earned.

Students receive stars for showing proficiency at standards. Students can use their stars to buy items (cards) in the shop.

If everyone worked very hard and there is a bit of time left over – auction off a mystery card. Students use the stars (in game currency) to bid. Mystery cards are in envelopes. They vary in rarity and power.

Have an antagonist tell the players “do you think this is a game?” “This isn’t a game!!!” “What game are playing at?…” to create more realism and paranoia.

Trio powers. A player from every guild must use to attack.

Have meeting once a week or more as bellwork. Students come in and have a few minutes to jot notes about how they feel about how class is going. What they need. How the game is going. Use tech, if possible, for most participation from introverts. Discuss. “I see here that some of you are feeling/struggling with ___. Can someone give me more information?

Twitters for the trio

Newspaper mock ups of Reading Newspaper. It never gives the trainees credit because no one knows about them. It’s a secret.

Item to allow student to wear one of my two capes for the day.

Leaderboard with superhero identities? Identities are given at random based on student’s power?

Item – password hack so students can bypass a lock on a secret mission they haven’t figured out how to solve (buy in shop – expensive)

Item – Mission Extension 24 or 48: This card granted players a 24 or 48-hour extension for completing any mission.

Put training school brand on every piece of paper, video, etc that students will see.

“I ended the first session with a few quick rounds of a mini-game called Admissions Interview. I shuffled a standard deck of cards (each bearing a player’s name), drew a card and read the name aloud. The selected player could accept or decline to be interviewed. If they accepted, they were asked three content questions about the novel taken from their assigned reading. If the player responded to two out of three questions correctly, they received a sealed envelope with a bonus inside – more will be explained about bonus envelopes in a later post. This type of mini-game puts the novel’s content at play, and creates an atmosphere of game show excitement when recalling details from the reading.” from

Students occasionally receive side missions from shield. This could be a way of allowing student choice. Students could choose to continue with the main mission or do the new mission instead. Missions from SHEILD are encrypted, so they have to use a cipher to decode. Maybe some of these are temptations so students in the low half of the leader board can catch up (Mario Cart – give more to the players in the back). Maybe make some of these for groups who are bottom half.

Secret Side mission – mission comes in large Manila envelope, but trainees are not allowed to work on it. It is for Agent Evans’ eyes only (envelope is labeled as such). Trainees must sneak the envelope, figure out how to read it without opening it, and solve. Trainees are instructed to do so if they gain access to a secret side mission. Envelope must be prominently displayed for ease of theft. Rules: can not be caught, can not tamper with envelope, must be returned without being caught, must write solution in secret side mission portal (google form). This can create some distrust of Agent Evans for more game depth. She is not who she seems to be. Keeping secrets. Etc.

Side missions are awarded up to 4 stars, but can get bonus stars for excellent work. In the program they will be denoted by “⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️+2” etc. This will make up for the relative scarcity of side missions. Secret side missions will be awarded in the same fashion. Possibly denote ahead of time how many additional stars are possible on mission instructions? Include minimum requirements, but state that additional elements or outstanding work can earn additional stars.

Side missions – make a flipgrid, real life math problem, who invented this and write a paragraph, job that uses this and write a paragraph (or tape interview), make a board game, invent item for game.

Create soundboard (with buttons) of different phrases that antagonist could say. “How dare you block my turn” “ I’ve got you now” “do you think this is a game?” “You can’t see me” etc.

Color code missions
– main missions (SBG) = red
– Side missions = blue
– Secret side missions = purple
figure out how to keep secret side mission titles from being listed unless completed. hmmm…maybe the achievers and explorers would benefit if they were listed..

Have percentage of game completed listed on student home screens.

Side mission – find a video game where a knowledge of mathematics gives the player an edge. More stars earned for higher mathematics needed.

After a few skirmishes, start including different kinds of Denominators with different looks and weaknesses.

Each class is trying to join a different superhero team upon graduation from the training program. Justice League, Teen Titans, Avengers, …?




Super Hero Training Center – A Work In Progress

“[Gamification] is accessible to all…because you are maximizing what you already have and what is available to you. You start with the content that meets your required standards and then explore how to layer gamification over the top.”

– Michael Matera in Explore Like a Pirate 

I’ve been thinking about this quote all summer. I have made this quote the basis of every gamification decision I have made so far. The questions ‘What am I already doing?’ and ‘How can I gamify that?’ have kept me on course. So…what things am I already doing? The biggest parts of my classroom are standards-based grading and collaborative groups.


I do standards based grading with a max score of 4. Inspired by games like Angry Birds, I decided that students could earn up to four stars for each target. There will be about 20-30 targets all year. (I’m not sure what grade I’m teaching yet and it depends on how many standards there are.) Just like in Angry Birds, students can reassess on old standards and earn more stars. It’s actually built into my class. Stars can’t be taken away.


Students will also earn stars doing side missions. I’m thinking that I will have maybe 20 side missions. These will all be content related, but will bring in some creativity. Make a video explaining a concept, explain how a concept can be used in real life, kind of stuff. I’m also thinking of incorporating at least 10 secret side missions. Links hidden on the website that lead to password protected google forms where they have to solve a puzzle or answer a trivia question to get in. A few QR codes on posters in the hallways.

Also, because they get stars for academics, all my temptations will only be available to students in the bottom half of the leaderboard. I should also add that I don’t think I’ll have a public leaderboard. I don’t think I’ll need one because I think that the stars will also be their in game currency. They will be able to buy items to help in their mission to take down the antagonists together.

So, I have items, Stars are my xp and my currency. no teams because the game is collaborative, no leaderboard. No badges. And I’m working on building some linked spreadsheets so I can have a screen for each student to see their personal game information without other students seeing it. I kept my promise to myself that I would only have two mechanics! Hooray!


I have a bit more for my story-line. After talking with some folks on twitter (mostly  @MrPowley, @Renard_Teach, and @MeehanEDU).

Students walk into class the first day. Greet them and thank them for “signing up”. Explain that there aren’t many super hero training schools left and play the intro video. Have students do super hero themed activities the first week to discover powers, and logos, and …stuff (?). A weird staticy voice is randomly heard a few times. They can’t seem to get a good connection. Students wonder who is trying to contact us… Are they friend who needs help or a foe to vanquish. *Spoiler* it’s the first of the 3 antagonists – a trio bent on using the world’s math illiteracy to destroy the earth – trying to call in to taunt the trainees.

No one will ever be able to stop us because no one remembers math!!! Bwhahaha!!!
– the trio thinks

The REAL supers are far too busy to deal with this, so they decide that defeating her will be good training for my trainees.

I’m thinking of introducing them one at a time without giving any clues before their actual introduction. Introduce #1 the second week of school (she finally gets through), battle her at the end of the midterm. Introduce #2 when #1 is defeated (“How dare you defeat my sister!!!”/”You never had a chance”). Battle #2 at the end of the first term. Battle #3 at 2nd midterm. Battle all 3 simultaneously for semester review.

The antagonists will send robot underlings, The Denominators, to test the knowledge of the students at the end of each unit. Undefeated Denominators will ally with the current antagonist during the battle (adding some additional HP each) and must be defeated before the trainees can damage the anatogonist. Adam Powley wrote a great system of battle mechanics using spreadsheets that you can find here. I’m planning to tweak his “Dreadsheets” to fit my needs. For next semester, I’m thinking about a computer program that the trio works for. Haven’t gotten very far on that, but I will have up through New Year’s to figure it out.

Things I’m still working on

  1. an introductory video and I have never edited a video before…
  2. a website. I have never created one from scratch before. I’m working on it though using google sites.
  3. puzzles that the antagonists can…antagonize students with (See what I did there?). Maybe some riddles that include vocabulary to hint at what the next topic they have chosen to stump the trainees with so they can destroy the world!!!
  4. main quests that students can solve to prevent earthquakes (via earth quake machine), tornadoes (via weather dominator), and anything else the diabolical trio come up with. (I cant do this part until I know what I’m teaching, still not hired for a position, just the district so far).
  5. lots of side-quests I only have a few right now. I think I will do some that can be used for every unit like “Make a flipgrid explaining how to solve a problem from this unit”.
  6. tweak and create multiple spreadsheets
  7. make lists of abilities and power ups
  8. figure out how to do the audio messages that #1 leaves the students the first few weeks of school, probably 3 or 4 of them.
  9. I need to design the characters and the Denominators, and maybe a few surprises too…I think I’ll try to figure out how to get Bitmoji to do it…
  10. Probably more things that I haven’t thought of yet…

So, basically, I know what I want to do, but haven’t actually built any of it yet… No pressure…

I broke my game and the 4 things that I’m hoping will fix it

I haven’t written at all this year… Geez. I just moved from a little town in New Mexico all the way to Reading, Pennsylvania. I’m mostly unpacked now and I can start thinking about gamification again.

I tried to gamify my class last year and I did a poor job. I used Classcraft, had a theme that neither the students nor I was excited about, was overly ambitious with game mechanics, and I just dropped the ball. This doesn’t mean I’m not going to gamify this year; I just have some things I need to fix:

1.) Pick a theme I am passionate about.

2.) Preplan more storyline and get some of the bones of the story figured out before the year starts.

3.) Make my own spreadsheet, so I is customized to what I need. (No offense meant to Michael Matera, who has an amazing spreadsheet that just does so much more than I need right now…)

4.) Pick 2 mechanics. Just 2. And then repeatedly talk myself out of doing more.

Right now I’m thinking generic superheroes. Maybe the students are in training. I’m not sure yet, but I have all summer to figure it out.

Gamifying My Classes and Balancing Retesting

I know I said I wasn’t going to gamify my classes this year, but I couldn’t help it. Gamifying just looks like so much fun.

I started by picking a Harry Potter theme, spent a month making a bunch of game cards, and then changed my mind a week before school started. I felt confined by the storyline. So, now I need to rebrand all those cards.

I now have a Dungeons and Dragons themed game. On the first day of school, they are going to be randomly sorted into They are going to start in a cave. They were dropped in there by an evil wizard. They are stuck in one part of the cave and they must solve a logic puzzle to get out of the room and to the main part of the cave. This puzzle will be the “Snape Logic Puzzle” from the end of The Chamber of Secrets. — I already bought the bottles and made different versions, so I am using them. — From there they will make decisions as a class about which paths within the cave they want to take. Each path will lead to a different content sub-standard. Before they leave the cave, they will have completed all of the content for the first standard.

We will round out the first three days, with other team building activities and with “Integers” as our first substandard. Students will pick team names on the second day of school and will pick their character type on the third day. They will be able to choose between Mage, Warrior, Ranger, and Rogue.

I am still incorporating ideas from the Harry Potter books, such as the troll fight on Halloween, but I am now going to incorporate ideas from The Lord of the Rings series, the Divergent series, and The Hunger Games series. I am hoping I will make the time to blog about the progress of the game.


My classes will get computer access once a week. During that day, students will have options:

  1. Watch Khan Academy videos for failed sub-standards in preparation to retry.
  2. Retry a failed sub-standard.
  3. Work on side-quests.


I am due back to work on Monday and my student’s will have their first day on Wednesday. I try to remember to update next weekend about how the week went.

Making My First Flipped Lesson

I had to miss the last two weeks of school for a family emergency. Before I left, my students were struggling with factoring quadratic equations. I think that is a good place to start. They’ve had a break from it, so their old errors won’t be so fresh, but it is also something they’ve seen before. I found this video on youtube that does an excellent job of explaining the concept.

I also checked  the video on my phone and it displays well on a small screen.

I will display this powerpoint throughout class. The first slide is for when they come in. I’m expecting some excitement – I’ve never allowed cell phone use in my class before.

I think this lesson will take two days. Let’s see how it goes.

Planning my First Flipped Lesson

I started following Kirk Humphreys (@kirk_humphreys) on twitter a few days ago. He has a flipped classroom unlike any I’ve ever seen. His students have taken complete control of their learning. They even decide how they will be assessed (sometimes). I have been researching for several days and decided that Tuesday, I am going to introduce my students in my Algebra I class to flipped lessons. I am not sure what is going to happen.

My students will watch the video on their phones (computers are all being used for the state test) and take notes in class. I will then have a student go up to the board and show the class what s/he thinks s/he understands about the topic in the video. When finished, the student will pick another student who will do the same thing. The other students are to listen, question, correct, and try to understand what is being presented (They have already been trained to do that). When students are satisfied, I will display:
“Prove to me that you know these standards by giving me examples and solving them to prove your understanding. You may make your own problems, find your own problems, or look up your own problems. You may collaborate with others, but you must turn in your own product, a I need to assess you individually. You may use any way you like to prove to me you understand the standards.” (credit for everything in quotes to Kirk Humphreys).

At the end of class, I will assign another video, this time for homework.

To accomplish this, I need to have both videos available to students in an easily accessible place before class on Tuesday. I’m thinking Google Drive. I will also have small whiteboards, wall white boards, graph paper, colored pencils, and graphing calculators available for students to use during class. I’m excited!


I joined twitter in 2011, but hadn’t really used it much. I never tweeted anything. I didn’t really follow anyone. I had not looked at it at all in years. I tried, halfheartedly, to do the math twitter blogosphere thing without using twitter. I occasionally found interesting lessons from bloggers. I’m making an effort to be an active member. There are several reasons for this.

  1. I am losing my love of teaching. I need to reignite it. My district’s forced testing regime has ruined my flow. My evaluations have incorrectly labeled me as Ineffective or Minimally Effective every year and the state won’t fix the errors. Many of my colleagues are disheartened and are giving in. I need to look outside my school and my town to find others who still love their job. I actually started looking for another job last month. It took an intervention from my fiance to remind me why I started teaching in the first place.
  2. SBG without SBL doesn’t work. I started grading my students by standard. I started spiraling their homework and tests. I didn’t change the way I teach. I just had more specific data that showed that they were not retaining information. I felt like a failure, but didn’t know how to fix it. Other math teachers in my building are seeing the same things in their students. I don’t want to just say “that’s the way it is”; I need to change.
  3. I need to feel like I’m part of something greater than myself. I have felt so alone with everything that is going wrong in education. I didn’t think anyone could make it better. I was tired of trying to make it better by myself and then getting crushed by the state evaluation. I need a network of people that are positive and inspiring.

I started being an active member of the twitter part of #MTBoS 3 days ago. Today is my first blog post (on a blog I made years ago and haven’t used in years). I am officially a Math-Twitter-BlogoSphere-er. Wish me luck.

New Student Work Organization Idea

Well, I didn’t come up with this. My partner teacher at my new school (That I LOVE by the way) uses this method to organize student work. It seems to save a lot of time. I will do the following tweaks for my own classroom.

Each table gets its own folder. Each class period gets its own color.


Students turn in their work to the right side of the folder. I grade the assignments and place them in the left side, where students collect them. Absent students retrieve worksheets and handouts from left pocket. A team mate writes the absent students name on assignments.


I start using these on Monday. We’ll see how it goes.

A new outlook on teaching…

This was my favorite week of school I’ve had in a long time. Last Friday was a school dance. I got to dance Gangnam Style with a group of my students. The turn out was great and the students were great! Monday I helped 6th graders make cupcakes, On Tuesday it was a Poetry Slam. Students sang, read original poetry, and read favorite poems. Other teachers and parents sang spirituals and read their own original poems. So much fun. Then honor society induction on Thursday where I had 8 students see their hard work paid off. Then yesterday was the talent show. My students performed an Irish dance routine, modern dance (think jabbawockeez), and sang beautifully. There were even great skits between acts. It was awesome!

After this year I really needed this to see why I want to stay a teacher! I really started doubting my abilities and resolve, but with the support of my friends and regular “choir rehearsals” I think I will be okay. A new principal, a new school, and a new appreciation of starting the year off strong. We’ll see how it goes…

Graph, Table, and Equation game

I made an activity for my students to review for a test on converting between graphs, tables, and equations. I gave each student a blank template divided into 12 pieces. This consisted of 4 problems each with a graph, table, and equation. Students made up their own problems, checked with me, and then cut the page into 12 pieces. Students then traded with another student. They then matched the graph, table, and equations together. The kids that knew what they were doing enjoyed the activity. Unprepared students struggled.

If I use this activity again I think I should do it over 2 class periods. I think pairing students up, so there are 8 problems per pair to match would make things more interesting too. Something to think about next year.

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