Grade 5 teacher uses Among Us game to teach math virtually during COVID-19 pandemic

A Grade 5 teacher in Hamilton is using a viral online game to help her students learn math.

Emma Finlayson, of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, said her class is 'obsessed' with the game

A teacher in the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is using Among Us to help her Grade 5 students learn math. (Submitted by Emma Finlayson)

A Grade 5 teacher in Hamilton is using a viral online game to help her students learn math.

Emma Finlayson, who works in the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB), started her first full-time teaching job in September with a class of 32 students all learning remotely.

Finlayson said on their last day of school before the winter break, her students were separated into groups. One group decided to play Among Us, a popular online multiplayer game, instead of follow the lesson plan.

"I had never played it before and I had heard about it, so I went in and told them to stop and they were like, 'Oh no, please it's really fun' and I'm like, 'Guys, I've never played it before, I can't tell you if it's appropriate for school,'" she said.

"So I went home and I downloaded the game and I played it, and it's fun."

In the colourful, arcade-style game, a group of up to 10 players must complete tasks on a spaceship to return to Earth, but some of them are impostors who must kill the others and stay undetected.

While Finlayson didn't think Among Us in its current form was appropriate for school, she wanted to find a way to incorporate the game she and her class are "obsessed with" into their learning.

As students were set to return to their virtual school on Jan. 4, she was planning review exercises for class.

"I'll give them a question and ask them 'Does this look OK to you?' and it's clearly wrong, and they have to try to explain their answers … and I just kind of thought of Among Us … and I just thought why don't I put the questions on the page and figure out which the impostor is?" said the 27-year-old teacher on Monday after debuting the exercise in class.

It is another example of educators adapting since Ontario mandated remote learning for all elementary students until Jan. 11 while high school students start in-class learning on Jan. 25.

Using the same layout as the game, the teacher features 10 questions, with one or two having incorrect answers. Students, in one big group, have to use the program's chat feature to figure out which answer is wrong in roughly one minute. Then, one of students discusses the answer with the teacher.

"They wanted to play again, so I think I'm going to have to make multiple different copies of this," Finlayson said.

"It was just one of those crazy things I came up with on a Sunday night."

WATCH | What is Among Us and how popular is it?

She says the students were using calculators and critical thinking to get the answers. The discussion after each round of questions also proved effective, Finlayson said, by helping students with different learning abilities understand why a certain answer was the impostor.

Finlayson also noticed that, much like in the actual online game, some students changed their answers based on what others said (even if their initial hunch was correct).

"It was interesting to see, 'Am I going to take the answers from the group or am I going to go with the one I know is right?' " she said.

Finalyson has since tweeted out her presentation for other educators to use.

Bill Torrens, superintendent of programs at HWDSB, said it's a sign that even in remote learning, students are getting the knowledge they need.

"We are proud of all of our educators who are finding innovative ways to engage with students in our remote learning program," he said.

"Our students' needs are being met because of the exceptional teaching excellence that is being shown by our educators." 

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Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.