Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Games Class, take Three!

Ahhh, a new year and a new semester!

There's plenty to talk about, but I'd like to begin with a success relevant to teaching.  I am teaching yet another CGT class.  Previously I've taught a Math/CS elective and a first-year seminar to college undergraduates.  This time I am teaching an honors seminar and so far things are going quite well.  I changed my teaching strategy a bit. We'll see how it pans out. 

We're in the third week and so far I haven't touched the book at all.  We've done nothing in class but play games and take notice of a few interesting aspects that come up.  I give them some challenges and let them puzzle through things.  I ask lots of questions and have been very pleased with the answers and ideas they're coming up with.

My goal is to instill motivation.  These are undergraduates, many with a non-math/cs/science background.  They are probably taking this class because it sounds fun (and it is worth Math credit).  Not only will I keep the class fun, by the end, I want them to be constantly asking me: "When are we going to learn how to play this game well?"

Or, even better: "When are we going to learn how to play sums of XXXX and YYYY well?"

The point is that while I can expect them to be motivated to play games and learn new games, I also want them to get a glimpse of how the more advanced material will become relevant to game play.  Perhaps then they'll be dive in to learning that as well.

I've rarely talked about hot games here, which is regrettable.  If you want to use CGT to play games well, determining the temperature of your summands is a vital aspect.  If you want to make the correct play on the sum of a Domineering game and a Clobber game, which of the two should you evaluate first?

We have seen just a few values, but today we'll actually delve into game trees and the "set notation" for positions.  Very soon we'll hit the fundamental theorem and take off from there.

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