I Can’t Carry Anymore!

UnknownEncumbrance, in role playing games, means how much you can carry. This is usually determined by the total weight of the items you are carrying. A common definition of encumbrance is “a burden” and for most tabletop role playing game enthusiasts, it’s an apt definition in more ways than one. So, it’s often ignored. I mean, who wants to limit how much of the dragon’s treasure you will bring back to your own den? In role playing videogames, it often can’t be ignored because it’s an integral part of the game. Champions of Norrath (2004) attempts to give players the best of both worlds, a limiting factor for realism and an unrealistic way to horde your winnings.

Champions of Norrath is an action oriented role playing videogame. The action comes from hitting and shooting things while the role playing comes, in part, from collecting gear to improve your character’s performance. Often when I compel my warrior, Morg, to pick up something, he will bleat, “I can’t carry anymore!” In which case, I transport Morg to the store and lighten his load in exchange for gold coins. In this game although weapons, armor and other equipment have weight, gold coins do not. This is a treat since Morg is currently holding 1,114,064 gold coins. But it’s also a bit silly.

Grade 6 Content (6.NS.B.2)


Q1:  If 1 gold coin weighs 1 ounce, what is the weight of the gold Morg is carrying in pounds?

Q2:  If a car weighs 3,000 pounds, about how many cars would it take to equal the weight of the gold Morg is carrying?


If 1 gold coin weighs 1 ounce, then the weight of 1,114,064 gold coins is 1,114,064 ounces.  There are 16 ounces in a pound so,

1,114,064 ounces / 16 ounces per pound = 69,629 pounds, the number of pounds in gold coins that Morg is carrying.

If a car weighs 3,000 pounds then Morg is carrying,

69,629 pounds / 3,000 pounds per car = the weight of more than 23 cars in gold coins.

That’s one way to bury the local cutpurse.

The Nightmare of Druaga: Fushingo Dungeon

151105-Nightmare_of_Druaga,_The_-_Fushigino_Dungeon_(USA)-1Abductions happen. But this time it’s the woman you were about to marry. Descend into the dungeon alone. Find your way to the temple. And for the love of gods, save her! So begins The Nightmare of Druaga: Fushingo Dungeon, a turn-based 3D dungeon crawler on the Playstation 2.

Here’s what I learned after my first few sessions of play.

Inherently slow pace. Do you enjoy a deliberate slog from one monster to the next? I hope it results in regular progress in the story and/or character(s) abilities. It’s too early in my adventure to be sure.

Success requires customization. Leveling up is not the only way you ready yourself for new challenges. Analyzing and tweaking, on a regular basis, what you wear and carry will impact how far you get.

Encumbrance. Okay, I was on the seventh level of the first dungeon before I tried to pick something up and read one of the most annoying phrases in RPG history: “Too many items.”

I wonder if there is much of a story after the introduction. Other than a flaming sword I found, are there interesting ways to improve your avatar’s performance? Will there be enough pay off for all the time spent grinding and customizing?

Forgotten Realms #1 – 4

imgres.jpgLet’s consider the first four issues of the Forgotten Realms comics from 1989 written by Jeff Grubb and penciled by Rags Morales. It’s a 4-part series named “Hand of Vaprak” and as Grubb explains in his blog, these characters are fully aware that are living in a “fantastic universe.” So it’s more adventure than ordeal and the characters are allowed to have fun.

It’s a magical word. Magic spells, magic potions, magic vehicles… Magic gets the characters in and out of danger. So, it shouldn’t surprise you that 3 of the 6 main heroes and the dominant adversary in this series are spell casters and that they are all battling over an incredibly powerful magical artifact.

It’s a light-hearted world. If you were like me in 1989, you wanted your fantasy to feel as real as possible. That meant no silly, tongue in cheek nonsense. So, oddly, Forgotten Realms is a better match for me now that I’m cured of that confining perspective. And I’ll even admit that I chuckled a bit at this exchange in issue #2:

Assistant: The company of dragonslayers is no more…

Mage: What happened to them?

Assistant: They encountered their first dragon, milord.

It’s a Dungeons & Dragons world. If you are acquainted with the roleplaying game you will feel right at home. The D&D character classes and races, the names of spells and monsters, and even the almost sizzle of an almost thrown fireb– (see issue #3) are all here.

No Squares Here

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Recognize and Categorize Shapes – Grade 4

Everyone wants to count triangles in this figure but what about rhombi, parallelograms and trapezoids? Hexagons and pentagons? Dodecagons anyone? The abundance of parallel lines make this a good figure for 4th graders to study, both as a review of some of the shapes addressed in previous grades and as an opportunity to classify quadrilaterals based on the presence of one or two sets of parallel lines.

2.G.A.1 – recognize triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons and hexagons

3.G.A.1 – recognize rhombi as examples of quadrilaterals

4.G.A.2 – recognize parallelograms and trapezoids* by their attributes


Q1:  What shapes do you see?

Q2:  How many of each shape are there? Count all same sized shapes as one shape. [For example, there are 4 different sized triangles, all equilateral.]

Q3:  How would you organize each of these shapes into categories?

Q4:  How many categories do the rhombi belong to? Make your case.

*Although students are composing trapezoids as early as grade 1, it’s not until grade 4 that students are expected to consider its defining attributes. Use the inclusive definition of the trapezoid, a quadrilateral with at least one set of parallel sides.

Faster is Not Smarter


Mathematician Laurent Schwartz won the Fields medal in 1950. The following is an excerpt from his autobiography, A Mathematician Grappling With His Century (2001).

I was always deeply uncertain about my own intellectual capacity; I thought I was unintelligent. And it is true that I was, and still am, rather slow. I need time to seize things because I always need to understand them fully. Even when I was the first to answer the teacher’s questions, I knew it was because they happened to be questions to which I already knew the answer. But if a new question arose, usually students who weren’t as good as I was answered before me. Towards the end of the eleventh grade, I secretly thought of myself as stupid. I worried about this for a long time. Not only did I believe I was stupid, but I couldn’t understand the contradiction between this stupidity and my good grades. I never talked about this to anyone, but I always felt convinced that my imposture would someday be revealed: the whole world and myself would finally see that what looked like intelligence was really just an illusion. If this ever happened, apparently no one noticed it, and I’m still just as slow. (…) At the end of the eleventh grade, I took the measure of the situation, and came to the conclusion that rapidity doesn’t have a precise relation to intelligence. What is important is to deeply understand things and their relations to each other. This is where intelligence lies. The fact of being quick or slow isn’t really relevant. Naturally, it’s helpful to be quick, like it is to have a good memory. But it’s neither necessary nor sufficient for intellectual success.

Trace Memory

tracememory_dsusbox.jpgI’m a girl of nearly fourteen years traveling to Edward Blood Island to meet my father. Until recently, I falsely believed he was dead. My aunt tells me I was protected from the truth but I feel betrayed. Though I may learn what really happened to my father, the reminders of the years with him I lost, will only bring me more sadness. Welcome to Trace Memory a mystery adventure title for the Nintendo DS. The game is text heavy, mostly dialogue, that keeps me engaged in the mysteries on the island. Solving simple puzzles moves me from one area to the next with opportunities to backtrack. Just when I begin to think Trace Memory is too easy, I find myself stuck just inside the mansion with no idea how to progress further. Before I become too frustrated, I return to the previous area and suddenly see the solution. I’m on track again and that feels good but I wonder if the puzzles will be difficult going forward. And if they are, am I curious enough about the island mysteries to stay persistent and solve them?

Understanding the Equal Sign


Some children misperceive the equal sign as an instruction to compute rather than understanding the equal sign as a symbol that shows two expressions have the same value. These children will often place a 5 in the blank when given 2 + 3 = _ + 4. Practice with addition facts may actually strengthen this misconception if children are repeatedly given left to right “4 plus 2 makes 6” formatted facts. This can become a significant stumbling block in a child’s development of algebraic reasoning.


  • Explicitly teach the equal sign means “the same value as.” In lower grades you may say, “6 marbles is the same as 4 marbles and 2 marbles.”
  • Avoid the input-output model to describe equations. Numbers are not placed into a machine with the answer spit out. The equal sign is not an operation that “makes” a number.
  • Use a variety equation formats. For example: 3 = 5 – 2 or 9 = 9 or 2 + 6 = 10 – 2


  • Represent a variety of equation formats with concrete objects and pictorials.
  • Describe their own representations of equations using “same value as” to express equality.
  • Solve for unknowns in equations such as 8 + _ = 3 + 9.

Source: Teaching the Meaning of the Equal Sign to Children with Learning Disabilities: Moving from Concrete to Abstractions by Ruth Beatty and Joan Moss at the University of Toronto. Published in The Learning of Mathematics, NCTM’s 69th Yearbook, 2007.