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Boys & Girls Clubs uses Pokémon to teach math

August 6, 2018

BURLINGTON — When it comes to pitting imaginary creatures against each another in the world of Pokémon, thousands of combinations are possible.

But not all of those combinations are winners.

Kids at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County’s Burlington Summer Breeze program are learning what it takes to be a Pokémon Master and — whether they realize it or not — are learning math in the process.

“It’s hugely strategic,” said the clubs’ Science Technology Engineering and Math Initiative Director Nathan Allen. “It involves a lot of math and there are almost infinite ways to develop a team.”

Allen, whose background is in math education and curriculum building, developed the program a few months ago.

An avid online Pokémon fan himself, Allen said he noticed one of the clubs had a Pokémon trading card club and decided to build from there.

Instead of trading cards, the students fill out worksheets in preparation for battling Allen’s online Pokémon team. Each student gets six Pokémon to match up against Allen’s. In the process, they learn about statistics, fractions and addition and subtraction.

The class is comprised of students in second- through fifth-grade, he said, but the curriculum is developed at a fourth-grade level.

“They’re all motivated to do it because they want to play the game,” Allen said.

The online battle helps them build computer literacy skills along the way.

“We love it,” said Lola Vu, who will be a fifth-grader at Immaculate Conception Regional School. “I like how we get to battle each other, and we get to make our own team and we get to have fun.”

The pilot program is comprised of 10 lessons, each with a step-by-step guide on how to teach the class so it can be easily replicated, Allen said.

The goal is to have the program replicated at other clubs locations, he said.

“We’re here to do really fun stuff,” said 9-year-old Gunnar Forstein, who was wearing a blue Pokémon shirt.

In this class, students had to figure out how to beat Allen’s grass-type Pokemon. To do so, Gunnar focused on bug- and fire-type Pokémon.

“I know that bug is good against grass,” the Allen Elementary School fourth-grader said. “When you level up, its (strength) gets higher and higher.”

By the time the new school year begins, Gunnar is confident he will be one of the top Pokémon masters in his school.

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