Minecraft Math: power rails

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One of the thing that confuses me is the abundance of worksheets available online that offer “minecraft math” but are focused on adding a few minecraft pictures to normal addition or multiplication questions. It seems so strange, to think that pictures alone of the wonderful mathematical place like minecraft would somehow make the math special. Why not encourage the kids to explore the math within minecraft itself? And so I continue my minecraft math series, this time with a printable pdf worksheet you can download!

Today my topic is minecraft railways. There are two main types of tracks. One of them is the basic track made from six iron ingots and a stick, the other type is the power rail, made from six gold ingots, a stick and some redstone dust. Power rails need a source of power, such as a redstone torch on a block next to them. If two or more power rails are side by side they can be powered by the same torch. Since gold is harder to find than iron, the normal railway will consist of many plain tracks with the occasional power rail to restore the minecarts energy.

It’s easy to write math questions asking the kids about how many iron ingots they would need to produce a specific number of plain track pieces. How many iron ingots would a person need to produce a full 64 tracks? The answer involves dividing by 16 and then multiplying by 6. Or one could ask the questions the other way. With a specific number of iron, how many track pieces could a person build? We did questions like this as a warm-up activity. Then we got onto the work of discovering how far apart the power rails could be placed while still keeping the minecart moving.

I made up a simple chart for my nine year old and put him to work. This first picture is of the test zone he built. It wasn’t what I was imagining (it was better).

Encourage children to design their own testing ground to see how far minecarts move in different conditions.My instructions to him included testing straight lines and diagonal lines separately. The reason is, there’s no such thing really as a diagonal line in minecraft. It’s a line that goes over and up, over and up, over and up. Whereas with a normal triangle the hypotenuse is shorter than the combined lengths of the other two sides, in a minecraft “triangle” the hypotenuse is exactly the same length as the combined lengths. Yet the program does treat speed on a diagonal line slightly differently.

Once a child has figured out exactly how far the minecart will go, the child can be posed different questions. If you have 45 rails and 6 power rails, will you be able to make an empty cart go to the end of the track? What if you had to go down two blocks height at some point? What if you had 9 power rails instead of six, but you also had to go up four blocks height? There are so many possible questions for a budding engineer.

If you’ve read this far, you might enjoy my other minecraft posts:

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  • Rebecca Reid

    Thanks for this! My son (age 6) has started asking about Minecraft so I’m off to read your other posts too. And thanks for linking up with Teaching with Technology!

  • Cindy Howell

    Oh my goodness, this is awesome! My boys LOVE Minecraft and I can’t wait to check out the rest of your series.
    Thank you for sharing at this week’s Super Saturday Afternoon Tea Link-Up!!!
    Cindy from Superheroes and Teacups

  • Michelle @ The MaMade Diaries

    Thank you so much for linking up at the MaMade Blog Hop! To be quite honest I’m not all that sure what Minecraft is besides a game. I may need to look into it more!! 🙂 This is a really neat idea though, to use the game like this with math!

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