chapter  4
8 Pages

Euclid Would Have Taught Math This Way

Observation A: Schoolchildren in the United States (and several Western Eu-ropean countries) are consistently outperformed in international compari-son tests of mathematical ability. Teachers complain that many students appear uninterested in the subject and are unmotivated to make the effort necessary to progress in developing computational skills, problem solving ability, or an under-standing of basic mathematical concepts. “They simply do not seem willing to put in the effort to learn some skills that could be of real use in their adult lives,” is an often-heard remark.Observation B: The vast majority of schoolchildren in the United States and those same countries-97% according to the Pew survey-spend many hours each week playing video games. (So too do over 50% of adults, according to Pew, but my present focus is on schoolchildren.) During the course of that game play, they may acquire a vast amount of knowledge about the imaginary world portrayed in the game, they will often practice a skill many times until they are fluent in it, and they will perform a particular action (such as manufacturing an artifact or killing a particular kind of beast) repeatedly in order to complete a quest and thereby advance in the game.If you were put in charge of reorganizing education to solve the problem highlighted in Observation A, what would you do? If you don’t immediately connect Observations A and B, and think, “Use video game technology to teach basic school mathematics,” then you probably have not played any good video games, and you almost certainly have a wildly inaccurate conception of what the best and most popular of those games involve.