Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Math and Super Mario Brothers

Usually I would hand out a worksheet on calculating when a function is closest to a point and have students complete 10-12 questions.  This year, I took the a different approach by bringing Super Mario Brothers in my class.

Using this picture,
I informed my class about Mario Brothers; when you jump, with Yoshi, you can jump again.  I then posed the question, "When would be the best time to jump off Yoshi if you want to get to the top level?"

Using Calculus, and geogebra you can calculate the path of Yoshi and the co-ordinate of the top level to get:

From here we calculated the equation of the parabola, and a distance function based on any point (x, f(x)) on the function.  Ultimately, we calculated the closest distance Yoshi comes to the point, and when to double jump to get the coin.
Students enjoyed this more than completing the 10 questions on the worksheet.  Feel free to use and fix as you see fit.


  1. Thank you! This is a valuable resource. I look forward to your next post.

  2. How were you able to find the equation for the parabola? In the second picture, point B appears to be at the maximum height of Yoshi's jump. However, just from the first picture, we have no way of knowing how high Yoshi can jump. If three points are required to define a parabola, how did you find the third point- the maximum height of Yoshi's jump? Thanks!

  3. Hi,

    This is a really excellent idea and one I'd like to incorporate into my show. Video games are (whether we like it or not) an integral part of kids' lives and addressing that while teaching a little math is awesome!

    I came across your blog via David Wees, and as a fellow mathematics educator I thought you might be able to help in spreading the word about an educational TV show for preteens about math that we're putting together. "The Number Hunter" is a cross between Bill Nye The Science Guy and The Crocodile Hunter -- bringing math to children in an innovative, adventurous way. I’d really appreciate your help in getting the word out about the project.

    I studied math education at Jacksonville University and the University of Florida. It became clear to me during my studies why we’re failing at teaching kids math. We're teaching it all wrong! Bill Nye taught kids that science is FUN. He showed them the EXPLOSIONS first and then the kids went to school to learn WHY things exploded. Kids learn about dinosaurs and amoeba and weird ocean life to make them go “wow”. But what about math? You probably remember the dreaded worksheets. Ugh.

    I’m sure you know math is much more exciting than people think. Fractal Geometry was used to create “Star Wars” backdrops, binary code was invented in Africa, The Great Pyramids and The Mona Lisa, wouldn’t exist without geometry.
    Our concept is to create an exciting, web-based TV show that’s both fun and educational.

    If you could consider posting about the project on your blog, I’d very much appreciate it. Also, if you'd be interested in link exchanging (either on The Number Hunter site, which is in development, or on which is a well-established site with 300,000 page views a month) please shoot me an email. We're also always looking for input and ideas from other math educators!

    Thanks in advance for your help,