The mobile gaming phenomenon that is Pokemon Go seems like it was intentionally designed to aggravate teachers. Ever struggled to get a student off his phone? Try it when there’s a wild Pikachu roaming the playground.
It’s a fad that won’t fade, at least anytime soon. So maybe it’s time to stop fighting the inevitable and look for the silver lining. Full of interesting features and data, Pokemon Go can be much more than an irritant: why not harness its educational potential in the math classroom?
Angles and orientation
For the blissfully unaware, the purpose of Pokemon Go is to wander the world catching different species of Pokemon, which can then be trained and used to fight against others. To do this, players navigate a map based on real-world locations. The map uses GPS and has a simple built-in compass, which makes it a perfect tool for calculating angles and direction.
Ask students to estimate, using the compass, how many degrees they’ll have to turn to face the nearest Pokestop (a location where players gather resources to catch and train Pokemon). Which compass direction are they now facing? What kind of angle does this route make relative to north? Is it quicker to turn clockwise or anti-clockwise?
Pokemon trainers gather eggs that must be walked for certain distances before they hatch. Because Pokemon Go uses kilometers, it’s a great opportunity to teach conversion between metric and imperial distances. Given that there are 1.6 kilometers in a mile, how many miles would you need to walk to hatch a 5 kilometer egg? If you walk at 2 miles per hour, how long would it take to hatch a 2 kilometer egg?
The map screen is also an excellent resource for planning routes between two points. Looking at the map, plan alternate routes between two Pokestops. Which do you think is shorter? Walk the two routes (or, if you can’t leave the classroom, plug the locations into Google Maps) to test the distance.
In order to catch more powerful Pokemon, players must first increase their own level by gaining experience. Experience points are rewarded for different achievements, such as catching and evolving Pokemon and visiting Pokestops. There are also certain items that temporarily double a player’s experience gains.
This is a great launchpad to explore questions of arithmetic, which you can make as simple or as difficult as your students require. If evolving a Pokemon grants 500 experience points and I need 8,500 to reach the next level, how many Pokemon should I evolve? How does this change if I use an item that doubles my experience gains? If evolving a Pokemon takes 25 seconds, how much time will it take to hit the next level?
Financial transactions, height and weight
Pokemon Go has a form of in-game currency called Pokecoins which can be exchanged for items. Pokecoins may be earned in the game or purchased with real-life money – a very simple example of currency exchange. Use this to quiz your students on financial transactions: if you have $46.75, how much change will you have after purchasing enough Pokecoins to buy 8 lucky eggs?
Individual Pokemon have their own stats, including height and weight. Track the height and weight for different Pokemon you catch and experiment with the data. What’s the median weight of all Flying Pokemon? Which Pokemon has the smallest height to weight ratio? Is there any identifiable relationship between a Pokemon’s weight and its health points?