The thoughts of an escaping maths teacher…

So we haven’t managed to play an escape room for a while and it got me thinking about why we love them so much. As you may know our team consists of three maths teachers – is it a coincidence that we all love escape rooms? I don’t think so. Now, you may be reading thinking ‘I hated maths at school but I love escape rooms’ and all I can say to that is that you weren’t taught by one of us ;-). I loved maths because I could work through a problem, sometimes having to approach it in different ways before finding a successful strategy, and I felt a sense of satisfaction when I reached a solution. It’s the same in an escape room. You work through a problem (word/number/observation based), having to consider different approaches and feel a sense of satisfaction when you find the solution and as a result you progress through the room. If I’m in a room and haven’t felt success within the first 15 minutes, it’s likely I’ll start getting frustrated and following this, I nearly always struggle to fully engage with or truly enjoy the room. I think it’s the same in a maths lesson. If the students haven’t felt success in the first 15 minutes, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve switched off, their resilience has lowered and it would take a lot to re-engage them in the lesson. Amy from https://britofanescapehabit.wordpress.com/ often talks about logic leaps in her reviews and it’s the same in our lessons – structured variation is so important so that we don’t have any big logic leaps in the questions we present where the students could potentially ‘get lost’ or ‘can’t keep up’, what they’re doing shouldn’t be too abstract but should always ‘make sense’.  I stumbled upon a competition last week for Year 7 – 9 students (11 to 14 years old) to develop some maths based escape room puzzles for a national competition https://mathsmission.challenges.org/. I was gutted (and very surprised) that being a teacher on twitter but also being heavily involved in the escape room community that I hadn’t heard about it since its launch in November. It made me feel like we’ve missed something as when I read the details on the website there was no mention of anyone from the escape room community being involved (I really hope I’m mistaken about this). The escape room community is such a friendly community and some of the people working within it are just fantastic. Owning or working in an escape room needs a variety of skills including hands on DIY skills, the ability to solve any problem presented as quickly as possible as well as being great with customers. This is one of those jobs that 10 years ago didn’t exist, but now it does, what are we doing to promote it within schools? Could an apprenticeship be created? Where is the future of escape rooms headed and how can the creativity of our young people be harnessed to help bring it to the next level?

The world of maths teaching has never been more exciting with the likes of LaSalle, Craig Barton and Jo Morgan enhancing our pedagogy and resources more than ever before. So is the world of escape rooms, an upcoming industry that is very much in its infancy and will probably look a lot different in 10 years time. https://www.breakouteducation.co.uk/ are the only company at the moment to combine Maths and escape rooms but I’m saying why just maths? Can we move this industry forward to involve all sorts of subjects? And how can we get our young people excited about escape rooms. Owners, if you like the idea see if you can get involved in local schools – can you offer work experience? An apprenticeship? Maths teachers (or any teachers!) – if you haven’t played an escape room, go and play one, it’s not just about creating maths puzzles but so much more and if we all get together and get involved we have the potential to spark the interest of some young people and give them something to aim for which will help them develop so many skills that will be useful for them whatever career they go into. I really hope the cracking the code competition runs next year too. I know I will be entering a team and will try to pass on the love I have for escape rooms to some of the students I teach.

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