Responding to this NYT article on Is Algebra Necessary?
I’m not going into the long ass spiel I had with bunch of people in forums, but basically I firmly and strongly believe that everyone should be able to do basic math with confidence. Anyway I started thinking about…. what if I made a math game, like a real real one? Not the usual “edu-tainment” crap (although tbh I really like Zoombinis) but one that is complex and geared towards creating a full curriculum for in preparation for pre-university and high school?
Some things I noticed about current math games:
1. many are “casual” games with no narration or plot
2. emphasis on “quest” orientation with little or no social aspect
3. those that are actually fun, tend to de-emphasise math level in favour of replacing it with symbol/inferential logic which doesn’t really tie the idea of math and application of math i.e. RPG character skill point distribution uses math logic but it isn’t apparent
Therefore the goal of game is:
1. create a communal social math-based MMORPG
2. emphasis on familarising people with math concepts
3. making them confident to use algebra as a mathematical tool i.e. using algebra in speed problems (y = mx+c ); using algebra to solve geometry area ( 1/2abSinC )
4. integrating math into Real Life problem sets
so… presenting, illumerates!
You start as a character who is leaving home for the first time to move into The City (a futuristic cosmopolis based on new york) with 1,000 credit. You start at the bottom and have to learn how to navigate the City, negotiate student loans, find jobs, manage budgets etc etc to become successful.
In the first levels, you live with a flatmate AI who will be your guide/mentor – learning how to use the interface and helping you move out to your own “homepad”. Later you can explore Life Paths (Design & Arts, Science & Technology, Service & Entertainment, Entrepreneur and Underworld) to gain new skills, collect better Tools, upgrade your homepad, join cliques to form power alliances etc. You can go on to become the greatest mob kingpin or the technological genius or the art director or anything…… whatever you want to be, the City will have it all
The interface is known as Variable system – you have an interface screen with 4 open slots (to start) and a blank Equation Bar at the bottom. When someone talks to you, or when you see an object etc etc you can click and drag the item/text/object into a slot to create an XYZK variable and use these variables to create equations and “solve” the quest. For instance one of the opening problems of the game is setting up a bank account in Sector 7- Neo Brooklyn. There are 10 different banks with different plans, interest rates blah blah blah the goal of your quest is to find the cheapest credit/savings bank account plan for yourself.
Equations can be saved into a Formula Inventory and can be re-used as variables in other equations. You can also gain Tools such as graph functions, calculators etc etc as you go higher and higher levels. Each level has 20 x 5 problem sets, with 10 “boss” problem sets. The basic level starts you with an AI guide and covers basic arithmetic algebra, bar modeling, % and ratio (at this point, you are living with your flatmate AI who acts as a guide/tutor/quest giver) Subsequently you can choose “Life Paths” where you learn applied math i.e. Arts/Creative, the first task is to use equations to create the perfect colour for an advertisement; using Pi to draw fractals or in Science, application of quadratic equations in mole; using geometry to solve vector direction
Besides that, you also have Practical and Social category. Practical is things like rent (different zones have different rents), spending budget, groceries etc are covered in there, and at higher levels you can automate allocate % of spending by manipulating equations (akin to The Sims’ auto-mode). Social covers things like dating (% of chance of getting a date etc), joining cliques (cliques are basically similar to guilds, where large guilds can control markets by using hostile takeover techniques, investing in larger stock options, create companies etc)
illumerates leveling system
The leveling system is based on the way I learned math in school, which dual-tiered. The first/foundation levels of 1-5 emphasizes strongly on fundamental arithmetic calculation WITHOUT the use of calculator. Each area (i.e addition, subtraction etc) has 20 problem sets, with 10 final/boss stage problems that require integrated use of techniques learnt in previous areas (so it all builds on one another) A lot of people might ask why it needs to be so repetitious, but repetition is key to standardising mathematical ability and so everyone starts off the same before moving to Life Paths ++++ (harder abstraction math) stages. In World of Warcraft, it’s known as the “killing pigs” stage where you run around killing many pigs so that you have enough skill points to start doing real quests & stuff. At this point, it should take approximately 1hr to get through each level (or 5 hrs to get through basic levels 1-5) for an average student
The higher levels integrate math with progressive difficulty. Each unit is thoroughly taught before moving to the next one, and it builds on one another. For instance a Office Junior (level 6 in Entrepreneur Life Path) starts off learning how to get a bank loan using a basic 2 unknown variable algebraic equation; a Manager (level 20 in Entrepreneur Life Path) might use a quadratic equation to determine the best time for a product launch while a CEO ( level 50 in Entrepreneur Life Path) might use inverse matrices to determine the best way of manipulating the stock market
illumerates community/marketplace trade
Users can buy, sell and exchange Equation Formulas with each other inside the Marketplace. Because the higher levels of the game emphasis a more logical algorithmic approach it means that a quest may have more than 1 answer and these answers are ranked by how concise and efficient they are (i.e. 5a + 5b can be written as 5(a+b) where the expanded equation is worth less than the more efficient/concise latter one), and these algorithms can be traded, analysed and build upon within Cliques. Conceptual problem sets or higher level mathematics i.e. Poisson distribution process, complex numbers, hyperbolic functions can be solved collaboratively by Cliques to earn larger and bigger amounts of credits and other special tools/bonuses.
I like the name illumerates because it sounds like illuminati/illuminate + numerate, and can you believe I forgot to bring paper today when I thought about it on the M train that I had to write it all over my hand??