Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Partiality Continues to be Confusing

Happy new semester & year! Let's dive right in!

I thought I had done a much better job explaining the difference between impartial and strictly partisan games last semester, but again far too many of my students claimed that their game was impartial during their presentations.

A few students presented symmetric games, and claimed they were impartial. A few made mistakes on games that were impartial except that each player had a separate score. These games, such as 3,6,9 and Odd Scoring, are not impartial because your turn affects your own score but does not affect your opponent's. Thus, the same moves are not allowed for both players.

For example, given the following Odd Scoring state: (parity of scores is given instead of actual numbers)

Left: Odd Right: Even
___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ _X_ ___ ...

One legal move for Left is to slide the marker one spot:

Left: Even Right: Even
___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ _X_ ___ ___ ...

Right does not have that move as one of its options. It can still slide the marker, but then the scores will both be odd instead of even. Thus, Odd Scoring is not impartial.

Last semester, I made a distinction to the class about impartial positions and impartial rulesets, defining each separately. A position is impartial if, recursively, all it's positions are impartial and if the set of Left positions is the SAME SET as the set of Right positions. (Not whether they are equivalent.) A ruleset is impartial if all positions available in that ruleset are impartial.

Before defining these, I defined symmetric positions as those equivalent to their opposite (G = -G means G is symmetric). I think this helped, because many students knew that their games were symmetric, but not impartial. This was a change from the previous year when most students claimed impartiality.

Perhaps it would be better next time to list common misconceptions about determining partiality.

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