Marco…Polar!

I introduced polar coordinates to my trig/pre-calc class yesterday. We talked about real world examples, like FPS video games with mini-maps, RADAR screens, and air traffic controller maps. Today we reinforced the concept with a new game, Marco Polar. (Credit to Susan Russo, @Dsrussosusan, who pointed out via Twitter the obvious pun that I was somehow missing.)

In case you aren’t familiar with it, Marco Polo is a game that I remember playing in pools, sort of like Blind Man’s Bluff in the water. One person is “it” and has their eyes closed, and shouts “Marco!”. Everyone else shouts “Polo!”, and the person who is “it” has to try to tag someone who isn’t it, just based on sound.

There are two twists for playing Marco Polar. First, we aren’t playing in the water. Even if the school had a pool, this probably wouldn’t be the best use of an entire class period. Second, the person who is “it” is stuck at the pole and cannot move. The player who is “it” is blindfolded, and everyone else moves to within about 10 feet of “it”. “It” shouts “Marco!”, and everyone else responds “Polar!”. Whoever is “it” uses what they heard to identify someone else in class by name and polar coordinates. (I used 1 meter as 1 unit, and students quickly started calling out coordinates to the nearest 0.5 unit).  If that person is at the correct angle, and within a half unit of those coordinates, they become “it” and switch places, and the game starts over. If that person isn’t within 3 feet, then “it” says “Marco!” again, and the game repeats.

Marco Polar

Today’s class had a few absences, and it’s already a small class, so we had very few participants. All told, though, this was 25 minutes of pure fun. We could have stopped after 10 minutes, but they were having a great time and are ahead of my other trig/pre-calc class, so I figured a bit of a break at the end of the day couldn’t hurt anyone. They’ve been working hard all year, and deserved a bit of a treat anyway.

There are a few ways to make this harder, but I haven’t tried any of them yet. Some ideas that I have, though:

  1. After an incorrect guess, allow all players to move again.
  2. Require the angle, the radius, or both be negative.
  3. Spin “it” around and tell them what direction they are facing.
  4. Move “it” around and tell them their coordinates, as well as where the pole is.
  5. Specify degrees or radians, depending on which students need to review more.

I’m sure there are others. This is a great, fast paced (hopefully) game, and I suppose it could even be paired with the same game, but using rectangular coordinates. “Marco Rectangular” just doesn’t have the same ring, though.

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