Tag Archives: video games

How do kids learn to play video games?

During a discussion about (-3)2 vs -32, I remind my 9th graders that Desmos and TOC (the other calculator) agree with what we said in class.

Student: We were never allowed to use calculators in 8th grade.1

Me: That may be, and there is a time and place for being allowed to use calculators, but I guess my point in saying that was if you’re at home working on a problem and you don’t remember how it all works, your calculator is a good tool to use to play around and test stuff out.

Students: <thoughtful look>

Me: Let me ask you something. When you get a new video game, the first thing you do before you play is crack open that manual and begin reading from the start, right?

Students: <snickers>

Me: OH COURSE NOT! What do you do?

Student: I just play around, see what happens.

Me: Exactly. You hit some buttons, explore territory, see how it works. Trial and error. Maybe explore a tutorial they made for the game, or work through a level challenge. Now, from time to time, you may need to ask a friend who has more experience, or go online and look at a forum on the game, or watch a video of some other person playing, and that’s a good thing.

Students: <nodding>

Me: So why can’t math be just like that? I’m here to tell you it can be.

My apologies that this transcript is mostly just a monologue. But the students really liked the analogy. I am certain of two things:

  1. There is no way this is the first time someone compared learning a video game to learning math.
  2. This has legs.

Anyone? Research, blog posts, rumors?


1 I have my own thoughts on this, which range from: good way to reinforce fundamentals, to why not give them every tool, to there’s a good chance this 9th grader is an unreliable narrater.

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