This week's newsletter has been translated into Spanish by Ed Campos, Jr. Make sure you check it out and tell him thank you on Twitter. The link to share is bit.ly/TTMspanish44
Matt Lane, author of Power-Up: Unlocking the Hidden Mathematics in Video Games, grabbed ahold of the newsletter control board to talk about video games. Why would I want my kids to play video games? Is there value in them? Read below to find out.
With school out for summer, you've likely already made plans to keep your kids active, engaged in learning, and off of the couch. But if your kids are anything like me when I was a kid, they'd rather stay at home and play video games. Fortunately, there are opportunities for rich mathematical conversations that arise from these games, even the ones that aren't expressly designed to be educational.
Here are three reasons why it's worth engaging your kids in video games, especially when it comes to mathematics:
1. They're relevant. According to the Entertainment Software Association's 2017 report, Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry, 65% of households in the US have at least one person who plays video games for at least three hours per week. It's a multibillion dollar industry that already appeals to millions of people, kids included.
2. They have pedagogical value. In his 2011 book Mathematics Education for a New Era: Video Games as a Medium for Learning, mathematician Keith Devlin argues for using video games not only to teach basic arithmetic and numeracy, but also to help foster a a productive disposition, which the National Research Council defines as "A habitual inclination to see mathematics as sensible, useful, and worthwhile, coupled with a belief in diligence and one's own efficacy."
3. They have a precedent. Did you know that Tetris has been linked to one of the Clay Mathematics Institute's Millenium Prize problems? Or that the origins of probability theory can be traced to a series of letters between mathematicians Pierre de Fermat and Blaise Pascal about a parlor game? Here's a simplified version of what they discussed (it's now known as The Problem of Points)
Suppose you and your child are playing a game where you both have an equal chance of winning each round. The first to win a certain number of rounds (say, 4) wins a prize. If the game is interrupted before either player can reach 4 wins, how should the price be fairly divided? To put it in concrete terms, what if you are winning 3 games to 1 when the game is interrupted? What if you're only winning 2 games to 1?
If you're looking to spark some interesting mathematical conversation, the Problem of Points is a great place to start. And if you'd like explore the intersection between math an video games in more detail, consider checking out my new book! It's called Power-Up: Unlocking the Hidden Mathematics in Video Games.
Also, here are some recommended games to play with your kids, along with their ratings:
Portal 2 (E10+)
The Witness (E)
The Sims 4 (T)
Enjoy your summer! And if you ever want to chat more about math or video games, you can find me on Twitter (@mmmaaatttttt - that's matt cubed).