Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Mission Prime


Jacqueline Schlasner, Cody Garrison, William Thompson, Javier Elizondo, Emmett Mathews, Braden Roper, Diana Gedye | Published: November 9th, 2020 by K20 Center

Learning Objectives

Given a calculus word problem, the student will be able to:

  • Identify the type of problem

  • Model the problem

  • Select the appropriate tools to solve the problem

  • Set up a function to solve the problem

  • Find the correct answer to the problem

About Mission Prime

Mission Prime focuses on identifying, modeling, selecting tools, and setting up functions to solve word problems. Performing calculations has been de-emphasized in favor of understanding the problem conceptually.

In the not-too-distant future, the people of Earth have decided to undertake a great project called Mission Prime by sending a few brave scouts across the cosmos to explore areas of a potentially habitable world, light years away.

When they awaken after their trip, the mission of these lonely space travelers is to prepare a safe, habitable environment for the colonists who will follow a few years behind them.

Students take on the role of one such astronaut after arriving on the planet. With only a rudimentary AI assistant as company, the player must mathematically work out the best way to use their limited resources to survive and build a colony in this alien environment.

Mission Prime includes four scenarios dealing directly with optimization problems. In the game, students will be asked to find the answer to an optimization word problem in the context of the objects present in the world. To better understand the context of the problem, students will manipulate certain objects in the world. Students will determine the ‘tools’ necessary to solve the problem from a given selection, arranging them, and then applying variables found in the game environment. Once the function is built from these components, students will be able to perform various operations on it and finally select the correct answer to the problem from the given outputs.


Game Resources

In addition to full implementation support, the K20 Center provides the following documents to help instructors effectively integrate Mission Prime into their classrooms:

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Awards and Publications

Top-Five Paper: Digital Game-Based Learning for Undergraduate Calculus Education: Immersion, Calculation, and Conceptual Understanding. Meaningful Play. (2014).

Lee, Y.-H., Dunbar, N., Kornelson, K., Wilson, S., Ralston, R., Savic, M., Stewart, S., Lennox, E., Thompson, W., & Elizondo, J. (2016). Digital Game for Undergraduate Calculus Education: Promoting immersion, calculation, and conceptual understanding through game affordances. International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations, 8(1), 13-27. DOI:  10.4018/IJGCMS.2016010102

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 License.