FORTVILLE — It took a lot of cardboard boxes, tape and imagination.

Second- through fifth-graders in high-ability math classes at Fortville Elementary School combined the three to create a cardboard arcade inspired by the YouTube video “Caine’s Arcade,” about a 9-year-old boy who built a cardboard arcade in his dad’s auto parts store. Since the video was released in 2012, the originators started the Imagination Foundation and the annual cardboard challenge.

High-ability math students at Mt. Vernon Community Schools flexed their STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) skills to create arcade games made from cardboard boxes. They used their iPads to research and write math story questions, said high ability teacher Jessica Daugherty. About 15 students in each grade are part of the high-ability math program, said Fortville Elementary School principal Heather Noesges.

Story continues below gallery

Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

Students spent about seven math sessions planning for the arcade event, which was held recently at Fortville Elementary School, Daugherty said.

Part of the challenge was to learn what it means to think like an engineer, she said. The high-ability math students set up their arcade in a conference room, and first-grade students came to try their hand at answering the story problems to earn a chance to play the games.

Evie Skene, a fifth-grader at Fortville Elementary, spent time during class and at home working on her cardboard arcade game, which was a fish bowl-type game in which competitors had five tries to toss balls in the bowl in order to win candy.

The game was pretty easy to build, she said, though it took more tape than she thought it would.

When the students started learning about the cardboard challenge, their first thought was to search the internet for ideas, but Daugherty tasked them with coming up with their own.

“Sometimes, it’s a challenge to them to think on their own and start something from nothing,” she said. “They mastered it so well, with just their thoughts and no one else telling them what to do. I think it scared them a little bit at first, but they were so excited they did it on their own.”

Daugherty said district officials have been incredibly supportive of the high-ability math program, which was piloted last year.

“It’s nice to know they’re working hard to reach these students,” she said. “These are future inventors and creative thinkers, and their ability to work in a different kind of situation is really great. I hope the program continues to grow.”

Author photo
Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or