Sunday, 2 February 2014

'Flappy Bird' and Data Handling Lessons

This week I have been introduced to the latest mobile craze that is 'Flappy Bird', an infuriatingly addictive game/app that my students are all currently raving about.

The game is simple, yet ridiculously difficult. All you do is tap your Smartphone's screen to 'flap' the 'flappy bird' when you do this he flaps up and down your screen. The goal is to then guide your 'flappy bird' through a series of green 'Super Mario Bros'' esque pipes by tapping or not tapping to flap or not flap your 'flappy bird'!

Simple ay? Nope! You'll find yourself frustrated at your pathetic attempts to get through the gaps in the green pipes and furious when the bird plummets to his death each time he/she so much as brushes one of the obstacles.
This is what makes the game so addictive and is clearly the reason why my students are hooked and are trying to beat each others' scores.

My year 9 tutor group were the ones to initially show me the game. One of them tried to share his wisdom and suggest it's best to ensure you are below the gap before 'flapping', another bragged at their high score of 33, which the rest seemed to be determined to beat. Obviously, my feeble attempts at competing with this score were soon made clear and I retreated to my desk.

Later that evening I downloaded the app myself in an attempt to see if I could do any better in the comfort of my own home. It turns out that once every now and again I do actually get a respectful score. My current highest score is 32!

So, where am I going with all of this...

As I was playing the game (getting increasingly annoyed at my inability to do well) I started to think about what my average score was and whether or not I was getting any better the more I played. This then led to me thinking of lessons I had taught recently to my Year 9 class where they were working with frequency tables and working out estimated means. I thought that this could be an ideal opportunity to capitalise on the latest craze.

What I have done is filmed myself playing the game a number of times. The idea then being that I use the video to 'hook' students into the lesson. The students would be asked to, in a suitable table, collect the scores I get as the video is played to them in class and then afterwards work out averages from their table, represent the results on a suitable graph/chart/diagram etc. Or, for a lower ability class, just get them to write down the scores as I get them and then work out my average score using the mean, mode, median and range. As I was creating a notebook file to use for the lesson/s I then started to think about possible cumulative frequency graphs that could be created, box plots that could be drawn and compared, stem and leaf diagrams that could be drawn and back-to-backs compared. There's so much that could be done, just from the short videos I have created. In addition, on the notebook file I have put a few different plenary slides that can be used with a series of lessons. One of these focuses on our school's SMSC logos that we are currently using. I've also added in my Numeracy across the curriculum logo (more about this in another post).

I've uploaded my resources (2 videos and a notebook file) to my TES resources. I had to link the videos from my YouTube account (mrcollinsmaths) as the file sizes are quite large [too large to upload on the TES] - each video of me playing the game is roughly 7 minutes long.

To download these just go to...

Or, to access the videos directly click on the below links...

Video 1:

Video 2:

I'd be interested to hear of any other suggestions for how I could use the videos I've created. Just comment below, on the resource on the TES, or by tweeting me @mrprcollins.

Happy Flapping!


  1. Great post Paul. I too was introduced to this craze this week. My yr 8, and 11s were talking about it, a yr ten challenged me to beat her high score (it was 6, and I failed), then my year twelves showed off their high scores (one was on 59 on Thursday afternoon!) I've been racking my brain for a great lesson idea around it, but now you've done it fir me! Thanks!

  2. Seems like it would be a linear relationship between score and time. So how about finding if I want to score "100", how long will I be flapping?

  3. Some of my students are insanely good at it. We’ve been looking at data handling to so doing comparisons of different classes high scores. I did a really simple worksheet to draw and compare box plots.

  4. Thanks for the comments guys.
    The videos went down a storm with my Y9 classes the past few weeks.
    They naturally have more of an interest in the lesson as they're obsessed with the game. The fact it has been removed from the App store too means that it is a novelty for some of them who didn't originally download the game as they can play it in class to generate more data to then use.
    In a lesson after using the videos above and the notebook file, I continued the theme of the popular games apps and took a class survey of their favourite app (I put some suggestions in a tally chart to start with) and then we produced a pie chart from the data collected - worked well.
    Thanks to Ms Steel for the comparative box plots resource...see above!