Justin Owens | 7th Grade

Justin Owens is a seventh grade math teacher from Charlotte, North Carolina. Like any good mathematician, he’s a pro at running the numbers so as to find ways to maximize his creative output with what limited time we have during those moments where we’re not already hard at work teaching our students. For Justin, bringing gamification into his math classroom has been an exponential multiplier in productivity and engagement. And with a little help from EMC² Learning, his classroom has become a hive of student-centered curiosity.

When The Math Just Doesn't Add Up

I was always interested in gamified learning and building engaging lessons. Before EMC² I had to make everything from scratch. It literally required planning months in advance to have a gamified lesson a month in the classroom. While I love the creative process, it limited me on how much gamification I could incorporate into my class on any given day. Also, being a math teacher, my skills and experience was primarily limited to math strategies. I did not yet realize that other content pedagogy would benefit my work in the mathematics classroom.

It was exhausting.

From the very beginning I knew I wanted to provide my students with different experiences than I had as a student, and there were some things that I wanted to emulate from some of my favorite teachers from grade school through college. I read as many books as I could. Teach Like a Pirate, Explore Like a PiratePlay Like a Pirate, and EDrenaline Rush were among my favorites and were referenced so much that the pages began falling out of them. But no matter how inspired I was, time is such a limited resource, and when you first begin teaching, you have ZERO resources. I began building experiences that each year I would go back to and try to revamp for each new year, but the amount that I was able to do still wasn’t reaching my desired level. I wanted my whole classroom experience to be a giant game. I tried other gamification websites, like Classcraft multiple times, but it just didn’t have flexibility I needed, I wanted more control!

A Whole New Way to Play

I was already following John and Michael’s work, I was quite the fanboy. When I saw them announce that they were working on a big project together, I immediately knew I was in, sign me up, I’m a lifer! The templates that EMC² offers allowed me to triple or quadruple my gamification output in my classroom. I was still doing a lot of my own modifications, edits and customization to fit my personal classroom, but so much of the visuals, layout and pedagogy was solid and in place. I just had to fit my content into those work spaces. Not only that, I was using strategies that were typical for other content classes in my math classroom and I was see huge returns on my investments. I still believe you have to train your students to work in this manner, but once you do, they see the excitement, fun, laughter and joy in making the learning process so much fun.

EMC² was already saving me time in designing engaging experiences in my classroom. I feel like with especially math content, it can be very boring. 

"But a dash of points here, a mastery badge there and the list goes on and on, students began running to class instead of hiding around the corner."

I was running activities that when the class ended, students were leaving the classroom thanking me for the activity, or cheering “let’s do that again!” Or following up after class and asking if we can take a test this way. They were enjoying the process, they were having fun doing math. That was when I knew I was hooked forever. 

What’s been amazing about the EMC² Learning community is just how much it has grown over the course of time I have been a part. It went from resources, to study courses, and interactive live meetings where we meet with educators all over the globe to build new experiences for our students. There is no better gift than a room full of passionate educators who are focused on providing their students with the best learning experience they possibly can. These growth opportunities were solving problems for me in the classroom before I even realized I had a problem.

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