SCVi Math Facilitator Increases Engagement, Collaboration with Virtual Escape Room

SCVi framed image collage

By Michael Niehoff
Education Content Coordinator, iLEAD Schools

Engaging learners in math problem-solving can be difficult. Many educators have turned to challenges and games to increase participation. At SCVi Charter School, 7th grade math facilitator Carolyn Kreiger has successfully taken that concept to the virtual environment.

Like many schools, SCVi has been in distance learning since March 2020. During this time, third-year facilitator Kreiger has been experimenting with virtual escape rooms. Kreiger said that these are web-based rooms conducted through Zoom. Her learners work as teams to complete a puzzle or challenge in a fixed time. See Kreiger’s Halloween Escape Room as one example.

The purpose of virtual escape rooms, according to Kreiger, is to foster and create collaboration, teamwork and community building. “This is collaborative problem-solving, and communication is key,” Kreiger said. “Learners have to talk things out, and this is a helpful skill in math problem-solving.”

Kreiger, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley and earned a bachelor’s degree in math at UC Berkeley, said that learners respond to the fun, social and game aspect of these challenges.

“Learning should be fun,” Kreiger said. “With these challenges, learners choose their own teams and have fun working together for a greater purpose.”

Kreiger said that the learners respond well to the gamification aspects of escape rooms. “There is a competitive aspect to this,” Kreiger said. “There are also opportunities for each learner to shine based on individual roles, responsibilities and strengths.”

These experiences go beyond fun and allow learners to build skills. “Learners develop consistent thought processes, problem-solving and logic skills,” Kreiger said. “They have to figure out what’s being asked of them and learn to figure out where the clues are, and that’s math in a nutshell.”

Kreiger said these experiences have helped her build instructional and facilitation strategies. “As a facilitator, I can design with everyone’s ability in mind, and every learner works at their level,” Kreiger said. “ I am better able to see how to support different learners and their abilities.”

According to Kreiger, the successful teams are the ones who learn to delegate, assume different roles and responsibilities, and ultimately maximize the use of the group.

“I love to pop into breakout rooms and have learners tell me what they are working on and how they are approaching the problem,” Kreiger said. “Again, it’s about their ability to discuss the problems they are solving.”

Kreiger’s learners seem to be thoroughly enjoying these immersive experiences. Chloe, a 7th grader at SCVi, said she enjoys the escape rooms because they provide the practice she needs in a fun and engaging way.

“For me, studying at home makes it hard to communicate and talk to other learners about what to do, as I get somewhat nervous. Despite my shyness, the escape rooms make it so that we are able to share ideas and find solutions to each problem in a way that seems natural to me,” she said. “Also, escape rooms are way more entertaining than just solving normal math problems because they allow you to search for the answers, and there are several ways to solve the puzzles.”

Although learners have not yet designed their own virtual escape rooms, Kreiger said the learners’ year-end project may involve this exciting challenge.

For educators interested in developing virtual escape rooms, Kreiger recommends using Google Sites. They are also welcome to contact her via email as well.

Going forward, Kreiger said she will continue to use virtual escape rooms intermittently. Currently, she is working on a probability project with this driving question: How can I create a game of chance where I win all the time?

“My goal,” Kreiger said, “is to keep my learners challenged and engaged any way I can.”