Ms. Pac-Maths

Posted by Emma, Uncategorized on Mar 21, 2016

Peterson, like Dan Meyer, believes that current maths problems in schools are too word-heavy. Rather than reducing these word problems down to the vital information and letting students ask the questions as Dan Meyer suggests, Perterson wants to take it one step further and remove all the words using gaming. I can see the positive side of this argument in terms of students being used to games from their leisure time and the way in which it would bring out competition and determination to get to the next level, something Angela Duckworth believes to be an important factor regarding success. However what about the students who do benefit from word rich maths problems and explanations? Furthermore, where is the explanation in the game as to why the maths works in the way it does? Surely this is just reinforcing the student’s instrumental understanding, rather than creating a deep and rich conceptual and relational understanding (Skemp).

Gee, in his article, draws a parallel between gaming and the act of ‘doing’ Biology. I found it interesting the way in which he describes students as able pass exams but incapable of applying what they have learnt in a real life context. This theme seems to run through the article; that students are underprepared for the “modern high-tech, global workplace” they enter upon completing school. He talks about the way learning should be pleasantly frustrating in the same way that games are, that school work should be challenging but do-able. This is an idea echoed by Lockhart. Gee explains how schools should be encouraging students to think about relationships rather than isolated events, similar to Skemps’s instrumental and relational understanding. Gee also advocates team work and the way in which students should work together to maximise the whole team’s skill set much in the same way that Robinson talks about collaboration being a more natural and useful way to work.

I can certainly see the benefits of these two points of view, however I can’t help thinking that I personally, as a student, wouldn’t have responded well to this type of learning. When I tried some of Peterson’s maths games I got frustrated by the lack of instructions. Therefore, I think, if we were to employ this idea it would have to be started from an extremely early age, as to not alienate those children who do have a love of words and the security words can often bring. If not, I think this idea might be useful and effective for those students who arrive at secondary school who don’t have a good enough grounding in mathematics to be able to build upon. A few hours a week on these games either in school time or at home might be a way of disguising learning.

We know from Willingham’s previous article that our students are already spending an average of 7.5 hours on electronic devices, do we want to be adding to this? Furthermore, by putting students in a virtual reality, are we not moving them away from the real world application of mathematics? Or have times changed so much that this is the new direction in terms of the real world? I am undecided…


1 Comment

  1. pepsmccrea
    8 April 2016

    Very interesting analysis, pulling together lots of ideas from different experts. Some strong questions asked too. Keep up the good thinking!

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