Desert Ridge Students Conquer Labyrinth Challenge
Sixth-grader places fourth out of 26,000 players, teacher invited to MIT.
August 21, 2012
When the Massachusetts Institute of Technology threw down the gauntlet with its Labyrinth Challenge, math teacher Cheryl Leung picked it up and handed it to her students at Desert Ridge Middle School. Their success has brought them national recognition.
The challenge requires players to solve a variety of high-level math problems as they work their way through an online labyrinth. Brandon Limary, a sixth-grader when playing the game at the end of last year, finished fourth in one of the game’s categories out of 26,000 students across the country who participated. He won a Lenovo ThinkPad tablet for his accomplishments.
Some 1,000 teachers brought their students into the labyrinth and submitted their observations to MIT instructors. Leung is one of five selected to visit the Cambridge, Mass., campus to discuss the game with its developers. She will make the trip later this fall.
The game involved players’ pets being captured by monsters and hidden in the labyrinth. They had to enter different rooms and could not leave or free their or others’ pets until the solved math problems the monsters presented. Limary placed fourth for the number of pets he freed.
Students also were allowed to contact each other through a messaging system to ask for help. It was the teamwork and “cooperative learning” that struck Leung about the game. Leung was able to monitor the messaging among her 140 students. What started out as a homework assignment of 15-30 minutes per night consumed weekends for some of them.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the discourse I was seeing,” Leung said.
The Labyrinth Challenge was designed by MIT educators through its Education Arcade program and funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The game was open between March and June and, even though school was out, Leung said many of her students continued playing into the summer.
“I like to see kids get recognized for their success in math and science,” Leung said. “So much of what we hear about student performance in those subjects is discouraging.”