Algebra and Beyond
I hope my enthusiasm for the potential of video games in mathematics educa-tion has not led any reader to assume they are the answer to all our current math ed woes. They are not. For one thing, although they do provide an ideal learning environment for much of what I have been calling everyday math-an environment that many young people find attractive-they are not for everyone. Some people simply are not interested in video games and don’t want to play them. (About 3-5% of the target age-range audience, according to the latest sur-veys.) I am not suggesting that an educational video game is intended to replace all, or indeed any of, other forms of mathematics education. It is meant to be an optional addition to everything else that is available, including school. To be sure, the option is not necessarily that of the student or the parent. It can be ex-ercised by the teacher or the school district. If either chooses to use a particular video game, the student will have no choice, even if they never play video games at home. They don’t have a choice about taking the math class either.I should also stress again that while video games are ideal to help students learn everyday math, they are not so well suited to provide learning for other kinds of mathematics. In particular, because their underlying educational philosophy is situated learning, they do not lend themselves naturally to teaching abstract, sym-bolic mathematics, such as algebra. At least not in the way I have been describing. With a different approach, however, I see no reason why you could not design a video game to help students learn algebra or any other topic from K-12 mathemat-ics. And if you expand your horizons from the game itself to the entire “metagame” (Gee’s “big-G game”), then I see no limit to the mathematics that could be learned with the aid of a suitably designed video game. The issue is what role the game plays in the educational process.