Code Hero and the “Apollo Program for Math”

Keith Devlin has proposed a “simulator” to teach mathematics via an integrated videogame world. Essentially he wants to tap the same effect seen in a study of Brazilian street mathematics where mathematics done in a natural environment gives a high success rate even when the exact same test subjects do badly on a formal test of the same concepts.

I’ve always been skeptical of the quoted price tag to develop a system ($100 million) and I’m still skeptical on what a system would look like for mathematics, but fortunately it looks like there’s now a close equivalent for computer programming: Code Hero.

Through the gameplay (which the developers describe as a cross between Minecraft and Portal) the player learns Javascript and Unityscript.

The developers just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign last week raising $170,954 and beating their original goal of $100,000 enough (with added private donations) to also make a massive multiplayer world, just like Keith Devlin describes in his blog post.

The game already has a playable beta if you want to try it out.

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3 Responses

  1. There should be enough open-source software laying around to build Devlin’s system on the Code Hero budget. Or better yet, take $100 million and start 2 million lemonade stands for kids to run. That should be just as effective.

  2. Open source may be the best way to go on this. We actually revised that $100M estimate up to $500M, but that was what a commercial studio like Blizzard might end up paying to build, market, launch, and establish a maintenance and support framework for, a AAA MMO that (i) covered the middle school Common Core and (ii) had appeal to 97% of the entire middle school cohort.

    Things look very different when you go Open Source and think of a gradual evolution. Though those two requirements i just listed are hard to meet.

    We ourselves abandoned the original full frontal assault approach when it became clear what it would cost. That was when I dubbed it the “Apollo Project”. :-) In fact, it would make a great project for NASA to take over if we cut back on the space program.

  3. Wow. I just met these guys a couple of weeks ago in a park in SF. They were playing on a rope swing. Very cool guys.

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