BY BILL FERRIS
How far would your students go to save a lost pet? Would they infiltrate a nefarious underground factory that turns cuddly animals into food? Would they disguise themselves as monsters to outsmart gremlins, golems and yetis? Would they still go through all this rigmarole if they knew it was a way to practice their math skills?
Lure of the Labyrinth is an mathematics game from Maryland Public Television designed for middle-school pre-algebra students. The protagonist, a kid who’s just had his beloved pet abducted by Bigfoot and taken to a subterranean food mill, has to solve a series of math-based puzzles to get him back. The puzzles focus on proportions, ratios, fractions, and variables.
Your students’ problem-solving skills will get a workout, as it sometimes takes a little trial and error just to figure out what the rules of the game are. The cafeteria, for example, is like a game of food sudoku which gives you limited time to figure out how to serve up perfectly sized portions to beasties like an imp and the Kraken. Another game has you helping out an armless blob by plugging three coins of unspecified value into a vending machine so as to get the best rotten apples and handburgers.
Aside from the educational content, Lure of the Labyrinth has a cute story to go with it, told through a series of well-drawn comic-book panels. The monsters range from fearsome to friendly to goofy, and the underground world features just enough slime, eyeballs and critters to appeal to the middle-school set.
If you’re not sure how to integrate a game into your pre-algebra lessons, the educators guide gives you sound advice on how to guide your class through the Labyrinth. You can also watch professional development videos that show you pro tips. Knowing when to take center stage and when to back off is key to the learning element in this game, and LotL’s creators make sure you know when to do each.
The best way to figure out how to use this game in your class is to play it yourself first. Head into the labyrinth and solve a few puzzles. Lure of the Labyrinth makes math fun, and not a little bit slimy.