History Games: Why I Love Mount & Blade

Data Theory Play llama in historical viking costume holding sword

The Mount & Blade franchise is the work of an indie studio in Turkey, TaleWorlds Entertainment. It is a terrific game as well as a terrific history lesson, one the best examples I know of an educational game that is just superbly fun as well as imparting information and stirring curiosity for its subject matter.

Mount & Blade boasts a handful of unique play experiences. One of them is its excellent riding and mounted combat. The sandbox gameplay is also well done, with many different approaches to play; the game will congratulate players for a variety of achievements, rather than encouraging one particular path to “winning,” but satisfaction comes from watching your own plans come to fruition. Continue reading

(Word) Problem to Project?

I’m taking calculus for the first time right now, and it’s got me thinking about math learning a lot, especially how to build intuition for math concepts and see them as tools for problem-solving in the real world.

As a grade school student, I always liked word problems in math class, for two reasons:

  1. There’s a heuristic pleasure in reading a passage and figuring out the math problem hidden in it. This is much more interesting to me than just getting the math problem by itself.
  2. There’s considerably less math per character in a word problem than in a block of equations. Since I suffered from fear of math in school, this was a big plus for me.

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Educational Games & STEM Toys: (Anti-)Gift Guide

STEM toys and educational games are big business these days, which means that every toy and game company wants a piece of the market – and many games and toys with questionable educational value will be trying to get under your Christmas tree (or other gift-harboring analogy) this holiday season.

Here are my thoughts on avoiding the over-engineered fluff and getting straight to the stuff that will actually encourage your kids to think, imagine, and innovate.

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Why Context Matters in Games for Learning

sad llama with tee shirt that says I wasn't good at math

Information requires context in order to be meaningful.

From this idea follow a couple of points worth discussing: (1) that games can provide something crucial to the learning experience and (2), that the choice of context in learning games matters enormously.

The other day, I saw one of those shareable quotes on Facebook – a particularly whiny one – to this effect: Another day and I still haven’t used that algebra they made me learn in high school. Apparently you can also pay money to have this sentiment printed on a tee shirt for you. I remember hearing a lot of the same sort of whining in school, with students wondering why they needed to learn algebra (among other things), and it seems like some people, long after graduating, are still nurturing a lingering resentment for what seemed like a waste of time when they were 16.

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STEM in America: Data, Approaches, and Questions (Part III)

Lego women scientists

Part III: Strategies

In Part II, we continued to look at data about students in higher education and what they choose to study; we saw that, although the overall student population for all of higher education became more similar from 2002 to 2012 to the overall national population of 18-24 year-olds, student populations in engineering programs are not following the same trend.

In this section, we’ll look at two programs trying to address and remedy representational disparities in STEM fields. Though one targets K-12 students and the other post-baccalaureates, both identify similar sources for, and solutions to, the diversity problem in STEM education.

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STEM in America: Data, Approaches, and Questions (Part II)

trends in pursuit of engineering degrees 2002-2011 by race and ethnicity

If you missed Part I of this series, find it here.

Part II: Trends

In Part I, we looked at some numbers: majors and graduates in US four-year institutions in and out of STEM fields. Those data gave us an overview of the state of STEM education in 2012 – who’s pursuing it (mostly men, to varying degrees depending on race and ethnicity) and who isn’t (mostly women across all race and ethnicity groups).

In this segment, we have two objectives. First, I’d like to provide a little more context for the discussion by looking at the value of STEM versus non-STEM degrees for the graduates who hold them. Then, we’ll look at data on higher education in the US from 2002 and 2012 to set up a longer perspective on how disparities have been changing (if indeed they have). In our efforts to make college more accessible to all Americans, have we been making progress? And when we look at STEM in particular, do we see similar patterns? Or are disparities in STEM widening when compared to higher education as a whole? Continue reading

Kriegsspiel: the Glory and the Pain of Teamwork

Kriegsspiel is a war game with a pedigree. Developed by the Prussian military in the 19th century to train officers, it offers a gameplay experience unlike anything I’ve had so far.

William and I played kriegsspiel at LA’s Strategicon over the long weekend. The game lasted about eight hours — and they flew by.

kriegsspiel game civil war
Battle lines being drawn as the Confederates prepare to take Tappahannock

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