I just finished playing Monument Valley. It’s a beautiful game that uses M.C. Escher style impossible geometry to create a mesmerizing series of challenges moving a character around the screen. It’s no wonder that Apple awarded it one of its coveted design awards this year.
This game evoked for me many of the ideas that Dan Meyer shared in his latest blog post and talk about video games and math class. Its tremendously easy to get started: tap on a spot, and the character goes there if doing so is possible. There are many ways to find a solution – an open middle, in his words.
One other attribute is that there is no sliding backwards, so there is little to no penalty for making mistakes. Once you’ve solved part of the puzzle, you never die and have to start over (unless you quit the game.) This means there’s no practice involved (which is where the math class analogue of independent practice might be applied with care) which is a good thing. This game is consequently pure problem solving, replete with many moments of realization and discovery of how to make progress. I was in the position below for a while before realizing that a single rotation would allow me to reach the striped target and complete the level.
This game got me thinking about designing lessons with similar levels of constructive confusion and forcing new ways of thinking. If you are looking for an enjoyable way to feel the type of perplexity that we strive to offer our students, give the game a try. It’s a few hours time very well spent.