Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Teaching CGT: speed bumps

A few quick notes on the current games course I'm teaching.  This is a combinatorial games course for undergraduates who are not necessarily math or computer science students. 

Some speed bumps on the road to CGT happiness:

* Math is hard.  Math without numbers is harder.  Often when I ask students to "show" something on the homework, they're not sure how to show the proper amount of work. 

* Values aren't coming soon enough.  I decided to skip ahead to Chapter 5 (we're using Lessons in Play) to get to the values.  The book hints at a lot of values ahead of time, but it would be easier to show more examples with values happening earlier on.  I skipped the end of Chapter 4 and probably should have skipped sooner.

* The book problems are tough.  I've needed to generate homework problems appropriate for undergraduates, which has taken some extra time.  I've shied away from the worksheets I used last time, but perhaps I should reincorporate those.

There are definitely some things that make going ahead easy, though:

* The students are not expecting me to prove things.  It's pretty easy for me to skip the more theoretical material in the book.

* The class is small and flexible.  I've been able to ditch my lecture notes and do other things when it seems appropriate.  I did this in class on Monday.

* I asked the students to force me to clarify whether I mean "ruleset" or "position" whenever I use the word "game".  They're very good at this, to the point where they call out whichever I should have said themselves.

I'm really looking forward to the point where I give students a new game ruleset and they can more deeply explore that on their own.  I really enjoy teaching this course and I'd like to accelerate progress to that point in future iterations.

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