TAMPA — Teachers rarely tell students to play video games, but video games rarely teach algebra fundamentals.
So 20 students from Walker, Liberty and Ferrell middle schools have spent eight weeks factoring and cross multiplying equations in the program Dimension M.
It's all part of a summer pilot program that combines math skills with video games, culminating in a tournament today that pits gaming teams against each other.
"They don't even realize they are learning math," said Jen DeMik, who teaches seventh-grade mathematics at Liberty Middle, where the tournament is taking place.
Two Dimension M games are involved, Meltdown and Swarm.
In Meltdown, players are timed and must collect colored orbs in a specific order, then answer math questions correctly to get points. Swarm also combines gaming skills and a series of math challenges.
DeMik and Lori Kressley, a sixth-grade math teacher at Liberty, are the instructors for the trial run of Dimension M.
Dimension M's designer, Tabula Digita, an educational gaming company, offered the pilot program to the county at no charge.
Dimension M allows the school to specify which math skills to emphasize, said Janet Boatman, supervisor of middle school mathematics.
"We looked at areas that our students struggled with the most on FCAT and tried to emphasize those concepts in the summer camp," said Boatman.
Today they compete in the Megabowl, a final tournament putting their math skills to the test.
Wednesday they ran a trial tournament to prepare. After one round, two students who lost then improved in a later one.
Overall, their instructors see it as a win.
"It's just a game to them," said tournament coordinator Lori Kressley, "but to us its much more."
Arielle Stevenson can be reached at (813) 226-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.