January 15, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Wii Learn: Surprise elementary grade students with a fun way to learn math

For the past two years, we have been using a tool to support math instruction in our schools that is as familiar to many students as riding a bike—the Nintendo Wii. Viewing the video game console through the eyes of an educator has opened up a world of mathematical applications through which students can master concepts, teachers can align with the Common Core Standards, and classrooms can reflect students’ experiences and interests.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is impacting schools nationwide. Never has there been a more important time for teacher librarians to ensure the relevancy of their programs within the larger context of this educational reform. These changes require us to have an awareness of and align library instruction with Common Core Standards in order to stay an active member of the conversation and continue to support student learning in a way that goes hand-in-hand with the efforts made by other educators in the school.

While drawing connections between AASL’s (American Association of School Librarians) Standards for the 21st Century Learner and those outlined in the Common Core English Language Arts Standards may be accomplished more easily by teacher librarians, identifying your role in supporting the Mathematics Standards can secure your identity as an instructional leader within the school. Take advantage of a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with math teachers to impact students’ understanding and mastery of math concepts and skills.

Matthew is an elementary school teacher librarian working with students in kindergarten through fifth grade at Longfellow Elementary School in Columbia, MD. Meghan is a math support teacher at Veterans Elementary School in Ellicott, MD. An avid video gamer, Matthew was excited to bring the Nintendo Wii into the classroom as an instructional tool. Meghan, a math enthusiast, was dedicated to integrating technology into the mathematics classroom. Together, they were determined to further define the role that the Nintendo Wii can play in mathematics instruction.

The Wii as a Tool

We are incorporating the Nintendo Wii into the classroom as an instructional tool, not as a replacement for mathematics teaching. Much like students use graphing calculators to solve complex computation, the Wii can be used as a tool to enhance instruction because it generates numbers that have physical meaning for students. Wii has a number of sports and fitness related games, intended for 1 to 4 players and rated E for Everyone by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), that have numerous real-world applications and provide a wealth of opportunities to connect to math concepts. Using the Wii console and a remote, players can engage in games of tennis, baseball, golf, boxing, and bowling with Wii Sports. With Wii Sports Resort, students can compete alone or with other players in 12 island-themed games including basketball, table tennis, air sports, archery, swordplay, and wakeboarding. The Wii MotionPlus controller is required. Wii Fit Plus improves balance skills with over 15 games plus a wide range of exercises. The Wii Fit Balance Board is required.

Sample Wii-Integrated Math Lessons

In an activity we call “Wakeboard Differences,” students in the second grade take turns using Wii Sports Resort in a wakeboarding game. This sport involves being pulled behind a speedboat while riding atop a wakeboard and jumping the waves. Skilled wakeboarders are able to land flips, twists, and more while traveling at top speeds. In the game, players have two minutes to achieve a high score by steering using the wireless remote in order to jump the wake. The more consecutive times the player lands a jump, the higher the points earned.

In the following lesson, we utilize math journals for students to record data and calculate the difference between two 3-digit numbers. A worksheet or piece of lined paper can be used in place of the journal.

Lesson: Wakeboard Differences (Wii Sports Resort). Grade: 2. Time: 45 min.

Common Core Math Standard(s): (2.NBT.2) Numbers & Operations in Base Ten/Understand Place Value/ Count within 1000; skip-count by 5s, 10s, and 100s. (2.NBT.7) Numbers & Operations in Base Ten/Use Place Value Understanding and Properties of Operations to Add and Subtract/Add and subtract within 1000, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction.

Lesson/Activities: As Students take turns generating scores by playing the game, have the spectators represent their score using Base Ten Blocks or Digiblocks and record the number in both standard and expanded form in their journal. As students record the information, ask them questions such as: “How far is that number from 100?” “What is the next ten after that number?” Once all students have taken their turn, have them partner with another student and find the difference between their value and their partner’s value. Ask students to share their strategies. If time allows, ask students to work with a new partner.

In designing our lesson, we anticipated the need for spectator engagement, so we built in learning tasks for them to complete while one student is playing the game. Most often, all the students are focused and excited, cheering on their classmates and recording the data and calculating the answers.

More Lesson Plans

Lesson: Golf Target Practice (Wii Fit). Grade: 4. Time: 45 min.

Common Core Math Standard(s): Explain why a fraction a/b is equivalent to a fraction (n × a)/(n × b) by using visual fraction models, with attention to how the number and size of the parts differ even though the two fractions themselves are the same size. Use this principle to recognize and generate equivalent fractions.

(4.NF.2) Compare two fractions with different numerators and different denominators, e.g., by creating common denominators or numerators, or by comparing to a benchmark fraction such as 1/2. Recognize that comparisons are valid only when the two fractions refer to the same whole. Record the results of comparisons with symbols >, =, or <, and justify the conclusions, e.g., by using a visual fraction model.

Lesson/Activities: In this game, participants hit a golf ball towards a target surrounding the hole. The closer the ball lands to a hole-in-one, the more points are awarded. Before students begin their game, ask: “What is the best possible score you can get each time?” (100) and “If you scored 100 every time, what would be the total best score you could get for a game?” Students take turns hitting the ball towards the target. Ask students to work in pairs and record the ratio (the number of points scored out of 100 total points) as a fraction each time a student takes a turn. Students should find an equivalent fraction and record it on an index card. Below each fraction, ask students to draw a representation of that fraction. Ask them: “How are you going about finding an equivalent fraction?” The game ends when ten players have taken a turn. Ask students to record the ratio of the total points earned to the total points possible in fraction form and simplify. Direct pairs of students to order their fractions from least to greatest. Ask: “Where does the overall fraction fall in relation to the other fractions?” and “Is the overall fraction closer to 0, 1/2, or 1?”

Lesson: Converting Ski Jumps (Wii Fit Plus). Grade: 5. Time : 45 min.

Common Core Math Standard(s): (5.MD.1) Convert among different-sized standard measurement units within a given measurement system (e.g., convert 5 cm to 0.05 m), and use these conversions in solving multi-step, real world problems.

Lesson/Activities: Students take turns generating jump distances using the Wii. As individual students make their jumps, direct the spectators to record five of the distances on a piece of paper. The scores will appear in meters, so students will need to convert the measurement to kilometers as well as centimeters. Provide students with place value mats and calculators to help them make the conversions. Ask students: “What do you notice about the value of your number as you convert it to kilometers/decimeters?” and “Why do you think it might be important to learn to convert measurements?”


There are many more possibilities for math lessons and applications using the Wii. Bringing the device into your classroom is just the beginning. Once you have mounted that hurdle, you will begin to discover the excitement as math comes alive for your students. We have created a wikispace for those interested in collaborating and learning more about our experiences. For more information about the Common Core Standards in Mathematics, visit http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards/mathematics. To learn more about using the Wii, including a free webinar and lesson ideas for grades K-7, visit http://Wiilearning.wikispaces.com.

Meghan Hearn (meghanhearn@gmail.com) is Math Support Teacher, Veterans Elementary School, Ellicott, MD, and Matthew Winner (mwinne2@gmail.com) is Library Media Specialist, Longfellow Elementary School, Columbia, MD.