Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Teaching with a Game

Someday I will be asked to teach a class about logic gates. At that point, I will (want to) use bOOleO as a teaching tool.

bOOleO is a card game where two players race to be the first to complete a logic "pyramid". Each card is either an AND, OR or XOR gate and an output of 0 (False) or 1 (True). This means that a player can't use an OR-1 card on two 0-inputs.

The base row of cards are just randomly either 0 or 1, and a player has to build a triangle down from this until they have just one card at the end.

I've only played with a few students, but they already have made excellent comments I won't be able to ignore when it is my turn to teach. First, the deck comes with two "cheet sheat" cards that list all the input-output combinations for each gate. This is a useful aid for those new to boolean logic. After a couple bOOleO games, however, these reference cards are no longer necessary.

Considering strategies leads to a stronger understanding of logic gates. One facet of the game are NOT cards, which invert one of the base row of cards, switching a 0 to a 1 and vice versa. Any gate cards that then have incorrect outputs for their inputs are discarded. Some gates are more susceptible to this than others. OR-0, AND-1 and both XOR cards will always be destroyed when their input changes. For OR-0 and AND-1, this occurs because they have only one working input combination. XOR, on the other hand, changes values with a change in any input.

AND-0 and OR-1 are a bit more robust: one in four input combinations are safe! Because of this, I usually find these cards to be more valuable than the other gates. Between the two of them, I favor the OR-1 cards, since a player has more flexibility with more 1s in their circuit.

Why is that? Well, since there are no NOR or NAND cards (NOT cards are not used as gates, but as the inverters as described above) there is no way to have a gate take two 0-inputs and output a 1, though XOR-0 will do the opposite.

Most importantly, this is an involved game, but with enough randomness to prevent it from being too serious. Interacting this way with logic gates can really help to bring the point home.

If I used this in class, though, I might try to create some more complex boards for game play that more closely resembles circuitry.

What other games are great as examples for teaching "non-game" subjects?


  1. Well, I used "Settlers of Catan" to teach the American exploration as an alternate history.

    And I created my own game--"Grail Quest"--to teach the Arthurian legends, following a "questing knight" model.

  2. Cool! How does Grail Quest work?

  3. Hi, Kyle,

    I am the co-inventor of bOOleO, and I recently discovered your blog.

    First, it's very exciting to see that an educator is exploring uses for our game in the classroom. The base concept that led to bOOleO was born from my noodling around with ways to teach boolean logic to my daughters.

    Second - we also make bOOleO-N Edition, which is the exact same game, only with the NAND, NOR, and XNOR gates. it can be played on its own, or combined with bOOleO for one huge game.

    Please feel free to share any findings and ideas with us on our facebook site. (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Booleo-and-Booleo-NEdition/70938352357?v=info)

    Best regards,

    Jonathan Brandt
    Tessera Games LLC