The new Code-a-Key Backpack! Bringing the Makey Makey and the BBC micro:bit together for more invention fun!

Maker Class Eight: Math/Literacy Tactile Game Challenge

Intro to Design Thinking and Tactile Math Literacy Challenge

Instead of following a project guide in this final maker class, you will be challenged to create your own invention for someone else! In this class, you will use the design cycle to invent your own tactile math or literacy game for a younger user. This user can be a younger grade level student at your school or a younger sibling, cousin, etc!  


Here is a adapted overview of the design cycle.

When thinking about a specific problem you want to solve, the first step is to empathize with the user as a way to help you define the problem you are solving!

You’ll find that as you move through these steps, you’ll come back to brainstorming often! That’s because the design cycle doesn’t have to flow in sequence order. Feel free to come back to these steps at different times.

To get started, let’s dig into the challenge. 

How might we design a tactile math or literacy game for a younger player?

First off, let’s look at what a math or literacy game can look like! Here are some examples other students made of math and literacy games. These 5th grade students were challenged to use the design cycle to create games for kindergarteners. 



Empathize/Define/ Ideate

You may not have an idea yet, and that is okay! It is best to start with the empathize step by learning more about the user for whom you are designing the game. You'll want to interview  the user, or a teacher or parent to help you with your questions! Talking to an expert about a design idea is a real step in the design process!

  • Who is your user? 
  • How old are they? 
  • What are they learning in math or what types of games could help them improve their reading or writing skills? 
  • How does their current teacher help them with math or literacy skills?


Write 3 questions to ask your expert regarding designing a game for the age of your player.

Also, start making a list of materials needed.

Once you’ve interviewed an expert, take your data as a way to define the problem you are solving. For instance, if you learn that a kindergarten student is only looking at number recognition, you will know that your game can not be a multiplication game!

Take some time to ideate (or brainstorm ideas ) for your project. Start planning and designing your game on paper. You can storyboard your game idea, or just make drawings to help visualize your project. 

Define The Problem and Your Idea

  • What is your idea for a game for your user?
  • What materials will you need?
  • How will you combine Scratch and Makey Makey? 


Prototype/ Test/ Reiterate

Storyboard your Project

Gather your notes and storyboard your project idea. Use this template to sketch your ideas and take notes. When you are ready to code, you can add your coding ideas on this same storyboard template.

Craft This: Make a list of materials you need and get started prototyping your tactile math or literacy game! Spend some time thinking about materials that will entice the younger child to play! You might notice in the inspiration video that our students used pipe cleaners and cotton balls as part of their project because they knew that little kids liked to tinker and play with sensory materials!

Code This: What Scratch elements will you use in your game?

Check out this list of “Foundational Scratch Blocks” as a way to think about animations, etc to really make your tactile game feel like a real product!

A lot of the students in our example, coded math animations, words and letter animations and more. 


Foundational Code Tools  

Coding Movement: Moving left/right with Forever Loops

This will get your character to move left and right in the most consistent way. You can also use a “when (direction) clicked” hat.

The forever loop will keep the “if” statements active for the entire game.

You can also code movement with the Makey Makey extension hats.

Coding Movement: Go to x: __ y: ____

Start a sprite in a specific spot. You can drag the sprite where you want it to get the x y coordinates where you want them.

Coding Looks: Changing Costumes

You can change costumes when a Makey Makey input is pressed (when your player touches a letter or number.) You can also use this with the “movement” code blocks.

Coding Looks: Changing Size

You can shrink or grow a character with this one. (We used the secret code hat for this, but you could use whatever you’d like to trigger the size change.) 

Coding Looks: Hide/show

Have your sprite hide until you need them to show up. This is a great way to do levels or animations.

Coding Jumping: Repeat, change y, and wait

This is the most effective way to jump and still be able to move left and right.

Coding Sensing: Sensing another sprite

Touching the "hedgehog" sprite puts Scratch cat back at the start. If you can’t find the “touching a character” code, you might be on the backdrop instead of a character’s code!

Coding Sensing: Adding levels with “when backdrop switches”

You can create levels with new backdrops. Just make sure the sprites you want to use are activated with the right backdrop and hidden on all other backdrops.

Coding Variables: Adding a Score 

Remember to set score to 0- you can trigger this at a level change or at the start.

Coding Control: Broadcast

Can be used to change levels or broadcast characters to appear or speak.

When my Scratch cat receives this message, it jumps for joy!


Hooking up Makey Makey

Since you are creating games specifically for math and literacy, you may want to remap your Makey Makey to certain letters and numbers. Here is a guide to help you if you decide to remap your Makey Makey and a planning sheet you can print out! 

Download this worksheet here




User Testing/ Debugging

Once your project is built and coded, it’s time to test it with real users. Set up your tactile game and if you can, have different users test it! If they find bugs in your code, or don’t understand how to play, then you will need to spend some time reiterating your design!

Reiterating is similar to writing different drafts of a paper. It means you need to look at your project again and find ways to improve it. You might spend a lot of time here brainstorming and ideating again!



Sharing Projects Arcade Style

After debugging, it is time to “publish” your project! You can set it up arcade style maybe even set up some of your other projects from the previous classes and share with the younger user! Remember to play and have fun!



Congratulations on Finishing the Maker Classes!

You finished all the maker classes! Remember to share your projects with us on social :

Instagram //Facebook // Twitter // Makey Blog // Newsletter // Even share ideas on Instructables!



Time Investment
1- 2 hrs



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