If you grew up in the 90’s and early aughts, you might have played old-school computer games like Math Blaster and Oregon Trail that were designed to “make learning fun” in math and history. While you may have traumatizing stories about dying early from digitalized dysentery or exploding after an equation, chances are that you didn’t actually learn a lot about history or math from these games. The MIT Education Arcade is hoping to fix that.
In a recent article, MIT’s STEP (Scheller Teacher Education Program) creative director, Scot Osterweil and director, Eric Klopfer, spoke about their approach to educational gaming, especially in their approach to STEM subjects. Their biggest gripe is the buzzword “gamification,” which means making learning seem like a chore that has to be “made fun” for kids.
“If somebody comes to me and says, ‘I want to make math fun,’ I don’t want to work with that person,” said Osterweil, “because they don’t think math is already fun.”
They pointed out that the old games didn’t help students learn how to problem-solve or how to understand the fundamentals of why they were getting problems right or wrong. Their new games aim to help educators teach skills like why math works the way it does, and how to apply it to actual problems that need solving.