Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lectures are over... how to make them better!

Thursday was our last "regular" class period. From today until the end of the semester, students will be presenting games they've researched on their own. If there is any extra time, I will fill in by attacking some of the topics we didn't cover throughout the semester.

There's a lot we didn't cover. Just on Thursday, I skipped ahead and covered Nimbers. We had only just started to cover infinitesimals: Up and Down. We hadn't quite gotten to DoubleUp = Up + Up. We were close to covering Switches.

I hope to teach this class again, but how could I improve things?

First off, Lessons in Play is an excellent text, but there are a number of things that should just be skipped. My students are not (all) math seniors, but instead a mix of computer science and math majors from sophomores to seniors. This means I should just skip more of the proofs in class. Many of the theorems are intuitive, and students are so hungry to learn how to evaluate these games, they want more statements of what is true and less explanations why. I think it's a shame I didn't get all the way to switches, these students really wanted to know what to do with {x | y} when x > y!

Second, I should use more worksheets. The last two weeks I started making worksheets for my students for their homework assignments. That worked really well. Somehow I didn't hammer it in hard enough that a game tree is the best proof. These worksheets take the students through the steps to prove the result, enforcing all the steps that are necessary.

Also, I think I need to choose better games to play during class time. Better doesn't mean more exciting, but instead more relevant to the topics we've chosen. Some games have more infinitesimals, while others are really great examples of employing the Simplest Number Theorem.

One thing that worked really well were the programming projects I assigned in class. For our last project, students must find the Grundy values of Cram games, implementing these properties straight from the definitions.

Exciting! I can't wait to teach this again!

1 comment:

  1. Good news! After presentations today, I had time to do a quick explanation of Reversible Options, something I had skipped in class. Woohoo!