So in my last post I opined that the optimal mathematics game in the Tiny Games spirit should “incidentally have some mathematics in them and are the sorts of games one might play even outside of a mathematics classroom.” That led to some confusion.
Let me try a do-over:
During a game, when the primary action of the players is indistinguishable from doing traditional homework or test problems, it is a gamified drill.
Gamified drills are not always bad. However, they’re not the sort of thing I’d say counters the notion “that students must learn and practice the basic skills of mathematics before they can do anything interesting with them.” They are what Keith Devlin calls a “1st generation educational game”.
There’s lots of gamified drills. It’s easy to do: just take what you normally would do in a math problem review and tack on a game element somewhere (for me it’s usually Math Basketball). To be integrated the primary actions of the players will require using mathematics in a way that is linked with the context of the game. That 1-2 Nim requires understanding multiples of 3 is inextricable from the game itself and not interchangeable the same way Math Basketball can be easily switched to Math Darts.