An escape room is a game in which teams solve multiple puzzles using clues, hints, and strategy in order to figure out how to escape from a locked room. It has been found that the use of puzzles and gamification in mathematics increases students’ participation and engagement. The prevalence of escape room businesses has increased in recent years. Escape rooms used in the classroom can provide an enjoyable and memorable challenge for students as they work together in teams. Incorporating escape rooms is one way to engage students, encourage productive struggle, and foster teamwork.
In designing and classroom testing escape rooms I have developed important principles for preparing escape rooms to be used in the mathematics classroom. These include a unifying theme and a brief backstory, structures to help students persevere in problem solving, and a compelling twist. The backstory provides information on the context of the problem and what students must do to finish the escape room (Stohlmann, 2020).
Students that participated in the escape rooms have enjoyed the mathematical work situated in a fun challenge and they were able to persevere in problem solving by demonstrating many characteristics associated with a growth mindset. Students commented that the time went by quickly as they stayed focused on completing the escape room. As groups worked on the problems they shared their mathematical thinking and developed their knowledge (Stohlmann, 2020).
Students also felt a sense of pride in the work and effort that they put forth. For example, a student at the conclusion of one of the escape rooms commented, “I feel so accomplished!” I have also written a book based on the Michael's Movie Moves escape room with example student responses that highlight a variety of strategies that students can use to solve ratio and proportional thinking problems. Included in the book is useful information for teachers and students on proportional thinking strategies including scale factors, tables, unit rates, tape or strip diagrams, double number lines, pictures, equations, and graphs (Stohlmann, 2019). An example from the book is below.
Stohlmann, M., & Kim, Y.R. (In press). Game-based learning: Robotics and escape rooms. The Australian Mathematics Education Journal.
Stohlmann, M. (2020). Escape room math: Luna’s lines. Mathematics Teacher: Learning and Teaching PK-12, 113(5), 383-389.
Stohlmann, M. (2019). Escape room: Michael’s movie moves. Seattle, WA: KDP.
Christian, author, and professor of mathematics education.