Hattiesburg, MS – Creative STEM teaching is happening at The Heart. Instead of working worksheets to isolate the unknown variable on one side of the equation while keeping the constant on the opposite side, Sacred Heart Catholic School students participated in a mathematical escape room.
Mrs. Jessica McCool, junior high math teacher at Sacred Heart Catholic School, created a non-traditional approach to the “study guide” for her students’ unit test. “I tried to find a fun way for students to solve one step, two step and multi-step equations with rational numbers,” said McCool. “I choose an escape room where students would work together and collaborate to solve problems.”
Escape rooms are opening in most communities, and its concept allows groups to solve unique and scenario-based puzzles in hopes to “escape” the room. McCool took this concept and transformed a standard math worksheet into active learning. Students were forced to solve puzzles using prior math teachings and knowledge to unlock their prize – 5 bonus points for their upcoming exam.
As students worked through the “Thanksgiving” puzzles of pies, turkeys, and counting your blessings, the following phrases were heard:
- “My brain hurts.”
- “Ugh. We need to do it again.”
- “This is a problem that we did a long time ago.”
- “Ok, we need to add everything up now.”
- “No one ever said escape rooms were easy.”
“It was fun,” said Hudson Moore, seventh grade Sacred Heart student. “We didn’t know how to start, so we started working on random math problems. Then we began to divide up the work and found ways to keep going until we got it right.” Most of the teams were able to solve the problems and locate the 4-digit code which unlocked their prize. Students left the classroom with smiles on their faces.
McCool earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from Mississippi College. This is her first year at Sacred Heart High School but has over 10 years of experience teaching Math in the public school system. She received Teacher of the Year in 2015 for Northwest Rankin Middle School.