Refraction Game Lesson Plan: Teaching Fractions Through Gameplay

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-8, students use BrainPOP resources to make real-world, cross-curricular connections between math and science concepts. Students explore light refraction through online gameplay and an experiment.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Make real-world, cross-curricular connections between math and science concepts
  2. Explore light refraction through online gameplay and an experiment
  3. Apply knowledge of fractional concepts (such as equal partitioning, addition, multiplication, mixed numbers, improper fractions, and common denominators) during online gameplay and in real-life scenarios


  • Computers for students to use in pairs
  • Interactive whiteboard (or just an LCD projector)
  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • One transparent glass of water for each group of students


fractions; refraction; defraction; light; angle of refraction


Refraction is an online puzzle game for teaching fractions. In Refraction, the player must partition lasers in order to power spaceships containing various animals who have gotten stuck in space. These animal spaceships all require different fractions of the lasers, and the player is given several pieces that split and bend the lasers to reach the animals and satisfy these requirements. These mechanics can be used to teach many important fraction concepts, such as equal partitioning, addition, multiplication, mixed numbers, improper fractions, and common denominators. The game itself is instrumented so that it records everything the player does, allowing teachers and researchers to analyze play data.

Portions of this lesson plan have been adapted from the Center for Game Science. You can watch a demo presentation of this game to see it in action.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Allow students to have more time to explore the game with their partners. Encourage them to make use of the "Level Select" option so that they can practice different fractional concepts.
  2. Ask students to pause the game and come together in a whole class discussion to talk about strategies. What determines the color of the laser? What happens when you try to power a spaceship with the wrong piece? How can a two splitter be used to make sure each ship has the right amount of power? If students have difficulty figuring out the game or explaining their strategies, you can show the first two minutes of the demo presentation to stimulate their thinking and facilitate the discussion.
  3. Pair students up and allow them to explore the Refraction game for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Explain that students will have the opportunity to explore refraction, diffraction, and mathematical fractions through an online game in which their job is to save animals that are stuck in space. Tell the class that there is no introductory tutorial because this is a puzzle game in which their job is to figure out their own strategies for game play. For each challenge, they must split and bend pieces on a board in order to provide the right fraction of laser power to each ship.
  5. Ask students what they think the connection is between the scientific terms "refraction" and "diffraction" and the mathematical term "fraction." You can utilize any of the BrainPOP Fraction Resources such as movies and quizzes to activate prior knowledge and help students make connections.
  6. Use the experiment and the Refraction and Diffraction movie to familiarize students with these scientific concepts. You may want to project the Vocabulary page and ensure students have a working knowledge of key terms.
  7. Divide students into groups and distribute a transparent glass full of water to each group. Project the Refraction Experiment for the class to see, and provide several minutes for students to use their pencils to investigate light refraction.

Extension Activity:

In later stages of the game, students can design their own levels for their peers to play. You may want to provide additional class time for students to demonstrate their learning in this way. Challenge students to create levels that require their peers to practice and apply various fractional concepts. Be sure to check out our other math games and science games in GameUp!