Today I viewed an archived webinar from Edweb. Edweb is a professional social networking site for teachers. They recently hosted a webinar with Keith Devlin, a college professor doing research on all types of media and how they can help teach math.
During this webinar, titled Re-Invigorating Math Education with the Next Generation of Mathematics Education Video Games, Devlin discussed how we use math in different ways, and that maybe we should teach it in different ways. I highly recommend this webinar as it provides a good overview of what is available in math video games. Devlin does a good job of describing when the programs can be helpful but also their limitations.
One thing I appreciated hearing from Devlin is that math games like DimensionM are not really games. He made the point that as soon as you see "Commutative Property" pop up on the screen, you know you are no longer in a game. "Games" like this can be a fun, engaging way to review/drill skills. They are an electronic version of flash cards set in a virtual world. You'll see in the video embedded here that students play what looks like the typical video game with pop-ups of multiple-choice math problems. (You may want to skip to about 1:35 of the video.) For me, it felt really disruptive. I had to get rid of the math problem in order to continue on with the game. That's one way of using video games but, in my opinion, it doesn't give the greatest benefit technology, and video games in general, have to offer.
Ko's Journey is math video game that provides a back story and allows students to encounter math within the context of the story. The video embedded here will give you the flavor of Ko's Journey. I would love to get access to the full game. From what I have seen, the storyline would certainly engage me. I'd like to see if the math is presented in a way that seems part of the story, rather than an interruption.
If you are interested in hearing more of what Keith Devlin has to say about video games and math, you can read an article by Devlin, Learning Math with a Video Game. You may also want to check out his book, Mathematics Education for a New Era: Games as a Medium for Learning.
Keith Devlin is also "The Math Guy" on NPR. At this link you can listen to audio clips of his work for the radio show "Weekend Edition".
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