AMATYC Keynote Notes: Challenge and Curiosity

Nov 21, 2016 by

In the 2016 AMATYC keynote, I covered three main themes:

  1. Interaction & Impasse (last post)
  2. Challenge & Curiosity (this post)
  3. Durable Learning

Here are references and resources for Challenge & Curiosity:

First, I have to point you to one of my favorite books on the subject, A Theory of Fun for Game Design, by Raph Koster.

Quote from Game Design: “How do I get somebody to learn something that is long and difficult and takes a lot of commitment, but get them to learn it well?” – James Gee

How do players learn a game? 

  • They give it a try
  • They push at boundaries
  • They try over and over
  • They seek patterns

It looks something like this:

Shows web of many nodes and branches coming off a person, with bridges between branches and potential paths to expand knowledge.

How does a player learn a game?

How do we teach students?

  • We tell them what we’re going to tell them.
  • We tell them.
  • We tell them what we told them.
  • We have them practice repetitively.

It looks something like this:

Very few linear paths branching out from the person at the center. Few nodes and few places to expand on knowledge.

How do we teach students?

Reference: Productive Failure in Mathematical Problem Solving

There’s a much wider body of research on productive failure worth reading.

Video: Playing to Learn Math

Resource: Good Questions from Cornell

Resource: Classroom Voting Questions from Carroll College

Design more activities that let the student figure out the mathematical puzzle, instead of providing all the secrets yourself.

Shows the graph of a rational function with vertical asymptote at x=5 and horizontal asymptote at y=2.

Explain the differences in the graphs: The student is given five rational functions to graph, each function looks only slightly different mathematically but produces very different results.

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Full version of Algeboats is out!

Mar 8, 2014 by

In case you’ve been waiting, the full version of Algeboats is out in the iPad store for $4.99.

You can see some of the gameplay for the Lite version of Algeboats on Youtube.

The game is designed to teach students about what algebraic variables mean and to begin to understand equations. It’s clever because the students don’t see equations to solve, but in the process of finding crate values that “make” the flags, they begin working backwards and thus solving the equations created by boat=flag. I’ve seen learners as young as 5 be absolutely delighted by the game (and the fact that they are doing algebra). Parents, of course, will be delighted as well.

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Board Games that Change Attitudes

May 28, 2013 by

Two weeks ago I attended the APF ProDev Gathering in Orlando on the future of Games and Simulations. A great time was had by all, and we had an enlightening time thinking about what games and simulations would be used for 10-15 years from now. Several games I learned about are worthy of mention here:

Buffalo (by tiltfactor) is a game that has been shown to change your attitude about stereotyping careers based on gender and ethnicity. You wouldn’t really know that from playing it, but players walk away being more aware of how much they know (or didn’t know) about women and minorities holding non-traditional positions (CEOs, programmers, scientists, etc.).

Cards Against Humanity is really an “Apples to Apples” style game that should only be played by adults (and possibly only by adults that are consuming alcoholic beverages). This is a game that is interesting in many ways – one is that the game was originally a kickstarter, and the designers have made a small fortune on the game.  But secondarily, I’m pretty sure that playing this game lowers your moral standards (so yes, it changes your attitudes). I don’t have any research to back that up, but trust me on this one. Don’t play this game with your parents.

Pox: Save the People (and, of course, ZombiePox) is about stopping the spread of a deadly disease. You can choose to vaccinate against the disease or cure the disease. Curing takes more resources than vaccination.

One more game that I think is worthy of mention (though it is one I’ve known about for a while) is Train, by Brenda Brathwaite. This is a game that explores the “devastation and tragedy of the Holocaust.” Read more in the WSJ article: Can you Make a Board Game about the Holocaust?

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Level Up: Video Games for Learning Algebra

Nov 13, 2012 by

Last week I gave a presentation at AMATYC about video games for learning algebra. As usual, Mat Moore did a fantastic illustration for the prezi.

It was staged in five levels:

  • Level 1: Why use games?
  • Level 2: What is a game? (manipulatives, puzzles, and games)
  • Level 3: Become a Math Game Critic
  • Level 4: Play GOOD Games
  • Level 5: Good Algebra Video Games?

You can click through the Prezi below.


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Coming out of the Closet: I’m a Game Designer!

Nov 12, 2012 by

I don’t even really know how to begin here. For the last three years I’ve been working on a secret little project that I wasn’t allowed to talk about in public (NDA). I’ve been designing digital games for learning algebra in my (ha ha) free time. The last couple months have been an absolutely insane flurry of activity as we approached the launch date and as a result, I haven’t posted much. Finally I can tell you that I’m no longer a wannabe game designer. I’ve designed four game apps that are now out in the iPad App store! I’m out of the closet and able to talk about it!

There are three years of stories to tell here about the development process, but I’m still recovering from launch week. So if you’re dying to see, here are the apps:

  • Algeboats Lite is a taste of our resource management game for learning how to evaluate expressions. [Note: Full version is not yet available.]
  • Algeburst: Topics in Algebra is a classic match-3 game for simplifying expressions, solving simple equations and inequalities, and using exponent rules.
  • Algeburst: Topics in Arithmetic is a classic match-3 game for pre-algebra arithmetic, including signed numbers, fractions, decimals, and order of operations.
  • Algeburst Lite will give you 12 free levels to try out the game (6 levels of arithmetic, 6 levels of algebra).

To see videos and screenshots from the games, please head on over to the Facebook pages: Algeburst or Algeboats and give us a LIKE!



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Collection of Math Games

Nov 14, 2011 by

To view the collections of Math Games, hover over the Games Menu, and go to one of the dropdown categories.




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