By Batuhan Akalin
Several days ago, across my Twitter feed, an unusually named application caught my eye. It was called Melon Truck. Quickly looking at the description within iTunes, the screen shots intrigued the parent/teacher inside me. If you are familiar with people who get a kick out of launching pumpkins from a cannon, then Melon Truck will become your next addiction. If you know anything about Applicable2U, then you know that downloaded applications to any of my Apple devices has to have a reason. So immediately I began to wonder, could this puzzle/arcade game have any educational component involved within it. Through my own exploration and having spoken to a fifth grade teacher and tutor, the answer is most certainly, YES!!
How does the application work: Prior to playing, the user might find it helpful to view the “How to Play.” From this screen, users will understand how to aim the cannon by increasing/decreasing the speed that the melon will be launched and the angle at which the cannon can be aimed. To apply the information learned, play will begin in Duruyo Land, which is made up of 27 levels of play. Levels will unlock after the player achieves a score of 1600 or a perfect score of 3000. Sounds simple enough, right? Don’t be fooled. If you recall, Applicable2U described this puzzle/arcade game as your newest addiction. Within each level, the melon truck and cannon are strategically placed within what appears to be a field. Aboard your truck you will only have 3 melons to shoot. Floating in the sky are numerical baskets ranging from 500-1000 points. At the bottom of the screen are two indicators: an angle and speed indicator. Set these two components and let the melon go. But be warned that there are a number of obstacles that will stop the user from achieving their goal of unlocking the next level. By hitting a red negative circle, a random amount of points will be lost. If the melon hits a blue question mark circle, it is uncertain as to whether this will be a good or bad thing for your score. Sliding from side to side are moving baskets which will unfortunately subtract 500 points from your total. Lastly, placed very closely to those earning baskets are rotating bars and charcoal gray circles which can also interfere with your success. Although 1600 points doesn’t sound like a whole lot, achieving that number is rather difficult. If a player chooses, levels may be re-entered so as to increase your total points earned within Duruyo Land. If you are lucky enough to earn a perfect score throughout Duruyo Land, three additional levels will be unlocked. Although Applicable2U was not successful enough, it does appear that the Melon Truck will also travel to another location, Oynuyo Land. From the developers description within iTunes, 6 additional bonus levels can be unlocked, however, a perfect score must be achieved. Guess I know what I will be doing this summer. So where does the educational component fit in?
How To Integrate Into A Math Class Setting: Regardless of what grade level, a number of mathematical processes need to be embedded into all mathematical strands. Such processes include students being able to: reason, communicate, make connections, problem solve and to create and use representations. As students enter fifth grade and above, they are required to understand and apply the concepts of rate, speed and probability. Once mathematical concepts are taught, mobile learning can then be implemented and reinforced with the help of Melon Truck. A possible way to integrate within a lesson or even at home would be to supply students with a recording sheet. Prior to playing, ask students the following questions: What predictions might they make upon seeing each level of play? What combination of angle and speed might be the most successful? Through individual exploration, have students record their predictions on a recording sheet and to then test them out. Once students have played, it might be interesting to connect your iPad device to a large screen and discuss as a class what made each person successful or not within each level.
So what did my fifth grade students say about Melon Truck? Initially, I had two students testing the application out. As they played, other students heard them whooping and hollering and wanted to know what they were up too. As I just sat back and watched, all I could hear was – “this application is addicting and challenging. I am going to download it when I get home.” “Exploring math this way is so much more interesting than the book.” As they finished, I asked them what they would change about the game? In a future update, they indicated that more melons would be appreciated, that 3 just was not enough. On several occasions, some melons bounced back towards the cannon and my students wondered might it be possible for those to be reused, as they didn’t drop to the ground. If additional melons were not an option, might a “power up” be acquired for achieving a certain score.
Regardless of these suggestions being implemented or not, my students and I were very impressed with what Melon Truck has to offer. Although it may be categorized as a puzzle/arcade game within iTunes, from a teacher’s point of view, it’s just an added bonus that it happens to also apply to the math curriculum for those in late elementary school. If you would like to see what Batuhan Akalin is up to, please visit his Facebook page by click here. Or you can take on a new addiction by downloading Melon Truck from your iTunes library here.