In 1847, George Boole invented symbolic logic. Or so everyone thought. In actuality, Boole’s symbols were merely a code. When translated, the symbols revealed an ancient game — the key to saving the world.
That’s right: we’ve got lore. Lots and lots of lore. For a puzzle-solving card game I invented to teach my students symbolic logic.
When I was an algebra tutor, I began to wonder why I enjoyed algebra. Normal people hate math: it’s useless and confusing. And I’m not even that good at it. So, why was I having such a good time?
After I got my Ph.D. in philosophy, I was asked to teach a course on symbolic logic — and I encountered the same question all over again. Symbolic logic was just another kind of algebra. Most students found it frustrating and would never use it again after finishing the course. But even though I wasn’t particularly good at it, I really enjoyed it.
At some point I realized what was going on. I experienced both algebra and symbolic logic as puzzle-solving games. I didn’t do math problems. I solved puzzles. I didn’t do logic problems. I solved puzzles. I sometimes had problems solving those puzzles, but they were still puzzles — complete with mystery and discovery.
Algebra and symbolic logic are games, in other words. And not like Number Munchers
And I also don’t mean like Math Blaster:
It’s not that you could invent games that more or less arbitrarily forced players to do algebra or logic. It’s that algebra and symbolic logic already are games. The problem was that the curriculum we use doesn’t help students see that.
A lucky few get it on their own, of course. But most of us just see an incomprehensible mess of symbols that we somehow have to sort out to avoid getting an “F” on our report cards.
So, I decided to create a new curriculum that would show students that symbolic logic is a game — and that would help them use visual and emotional reasoning to master the subject. The original version of the game can be downloaded here. It was programmed in JavaFX over the course of two school years. My current project is to port the game to the Unity engine, incorporating animations, 3D graphics, and lots of other cool stuff.
One day I hope to do the same thing for algebra, though probably not as a card game. In the meantime, I’m having a ton of fun learning Unity (and Blender), and I hope other game devs will find what I’ve learned useful (and perhaps give me some hints about how to improve my code and approach).