Monday, March 8, 2010

How useful are games in teaching Math?

I have been thinking about this question for a while and the answer depends a lot on the type of games we are talking about. There are cross-number puzzles, ciphers to decode pun-ish riddles, drill and practice games, role-playing games, etc.

It may be that "game" is a organizer for "play" which is really a state of engagement. Students can engage in a game for hours, puzzling out the rules and feeling accomplishment.

I wish that I could be at Maria Andersen's presentation - Playing to Learn Math.

Does our view of Math education allow us to imagine a time when a robot could do a better job of much of our teaching, as the Koreans and Japanese are working on?

This week my daughter, who is studying Math at UW and is currently in a graph theory course, was reminded of a set of games that she played as a youngster - expressly designed to introduce colouring problems in an engaging way. They are MS-DOS based and I have got them to run enough to recognize the screens, but not really to enjoy.

When I am trying to get Sketchpad or Flash to produce a certain figure or interaction, I can enter an engaged state that social psychologists refer to as "Flow", which I find enjoyable.

Keith Devlin would like a couple of hundred million dollars to develop a MMP game that would allow players to construct math learning. I admit to being a tad skeptical, but what would such an environment be worth?

What role have games and play had in your Mathematical development?

1 comment:

Sue VanHattum said...

I loved codes and ciphers when I was young. Those were the first 'grownup' books I took out of the library.

Then I found logic puzzles. Loved those, too.

Math has always felt like fun and games for me. (Except when it hasn't, and then I didn't think I liked math.)

I don't know if what I like falls exactly within the definition of games, but it's close.

Math is (good) hard work, and I don't think people put themselves into it thoroughly if they're not enjoying it.