Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, gave a speech last week to the Royal Society emphasising importance of mathematics, and unusually for a politician mentioned games in a positive context:
“Computer games developed by Marcus Du Sautoy are enabling children to engage with complex mathematical problems that would hitherto have been thought too advanced. When children need to solve equations in order to get more ammo to shoot the aliens, it is amazing how quickly they can learn. I am sure that this field of educational games has huge potential for maths and science teaching and I know that Marcus himself has been thinking about how he might be able to create games to introduce advanced concepts, such as non-Euclidean geometry, to children at a much earlier stage than normal in schools.”
Marcus du Sautoy is really engaging and pops up quite frequently in the media (like whenever In Our Time covers a mathematical subject), and the project Gove was referring to is Manga High. Not too sure about the name, but the resource, maths games for schools, is quite impressive. Never mind the kids, I had a crack at the trial version of a few of the games and was most disappointed when the trial of BIDMAS Blaster expired just as I’d upgraded the rubbish starter pistol to a laser rifle and was really mowing down robot hordes. The full thing is free for schools and offers individual logins coupled with statistics, targets, medals, achievements etc., seems like a fairly positive use of “gamification”.
Of course looking at du Sautoy’s aspirations, if there’s one setting that screams “non-Euclidean geometry” (albeit not quite as loudly as it screams “Aieeeee, the horror, the horror”) it’s the Cthulhu Mythos, which leads to the inescapable conclusion that Mr Gove is calling for games of brain-bending horror to be made compulsory in schools. Hurray!