Friday, June 27, 2008

Games and Grades

I liked this (from Rational Mathematics Education) firstly because DH designs games for a living; secondly, because that's a very philosophical description of a mystery; third, because of the commentary on the "school" approach to learning. It actually reminds me a bit of what I've been reading recently in the Charlotte Mason books about habits of real learning, which often don't operate quite as showily or neatly as various academic tricks sometimes do.

First, an analogy: Games are to puzzles as mysteries are to secrets.

Second, a claim: The more you know about a mystery, the more mysterious it becomes. The more you know about a secret, the less secret it becomes.

.......Schools tend to pose problems to students in the form of puzzles far more than in the form of games. This can result in students being taught to think that there is an answer to every question, a solution to every problem. There is an endless array of secrets that others know and you don’t. When students leave school they frequently find that problems in the “real world” tend not to have “once and for all” solutions. Many problems seem to have no solution at all. People create problems themselves and solve problems created by others. They begin to think in terms of strategies for coping with their problems, strategies that serve their ends but can be expected to conflict with other people’s goals. Therefore a puzzle-based education might not prepare people for life after school as well as a game-based education might.
He goes on:

There are practical alternatives to the puzzle approach, alternatives that encourage people to reflect upon, cope with, and even enjoy mysteries. That games are analogous to mysteries does seem to be the case insofar as progress towards higher and higher levels of game playing proves to bring greater and more confusing challenges. “Solutions” that worked at one level are exposed quickly as solutions that were only relevant to the prior situation. This follows whether the game is bridge, chess, football …
This made me think about how things that don't seem necessarily like "learning" in a schooly sense, around this particular house, often seem to have a long-term seed-planting effect which is a bit of a mystery to me. I think the puzzle-maker sets up the puzzle to control the outcome, while the game-maker sets it up to let the player have at least a hand in the outcome. Puzzles are fun, but they can only be solved one way; while games vary according to the dynamics of the game and the players.


JoVE said...

Interesting. I would add to your last comment that sometimes games also introduce other factors. If you think of his example of bridge (a game I play), in addition to the players skill, there is always the chance involved in how the cards are dealt. I'm a pretty good bridge player but if I'm dealt awful cards I am not going to score well. My goal might then be to make sure that the opposing team doesn't get the highest score possible with their cards. But some days you can play your best and still lose because the other team just got better cards.

His analogy to how this might be good preparation for life is clear. We are not completely in control of all the factors and all problems do not have solutions. Very interesting to think about.

Piseco said...

Thanks for sharing this. We're huge players of games in our house, with puzzles being a sideline or solo activity. I'd never thought about it before, but I immediately understood the analogy.

I like this analogy on several levels - and since I was just reading the quote on M-mv this morning about how schools don't prepare children for the real world, it's even more timely.

Thanks for giving me something to ponder this morning!

momof3feistykids said...

Excellent article ... thank you for sharing it. It fits perfectly since I have been thinking about dynamic versus static intelligence.