I explained to my students today that my son forces me to play a game called Minecraft and sometimes we bury treasure chests for each other to find. I pulled up the map below and asked my class how they would describe the location of the treasure.
Students suggested a bunch of very vague directions:
- It's in the desert.
- It's where the snow and the desert meet.
- It's next to the large pond.
- No, I didn't mean that pond. The other pond.
- Go northeast, then dig.
None of these directions were that helpful. While some of the more detailed ones could have gotten me closer to the treasure, it's still difficult to find it unless you have the exact location.
Enter the coordinate plane. Some students were familiar enough with the game to know that x-, y-, and z-coordinates are given to you on the map. (They were cut off on my original picture.)
Of course, my students weren't exactly sure what those numbers meant, but it didn't take long for them to see that these values were simply directions from the origin of the map (white crosshairs) and they would provide the exact location.
I particularly liked this introduction because it created a need for the coordinate plane (Dan Meyer did something similar here).