Dialgebra

Have you ever looked at the formulas that govern Diablo 2? I mean, seriously looked? Some of them can get rather complex. Some of them are downright complicated. And some left me with a headache. To bad these formula are hidden away, buried in the depths of the fan sites and the Diablo 2 code, unworked and unloved by the masses. I think they have some potential as teaching devices. Perhaps it is time we had another revolution in education…. Diablo style.

Let me present the evidence first. I am going to use information from the 1.10 beta as posted on Arreat Summit. If I could not find the numbers for 1.10, then I used whatever I could find. If I could not find it, I made it up. With me? Then break out your pencils, and get ready for a story problem:

Bob the Barbarian has 325,113,749 experience points. Suppose he and 3 friends, in a party, find a pack of monsters that each yields 57,250 base experience. Taking into account the the party experience bonus, ignoring the level difference penalty, and factoring in the experience penalty for high level heroes, how many of these monsters must Bob and his party kill in order for Bob to reach the next level?

Ok, so the experience gained per monster came off the top of my head. Anyway, think about what solving this thing would require! First, hunting through the experience chart for whatever level Bob is. Second, using the party experience bonus formula to compute the amount of experience each monster would yield. Third, factoring in Bobs high level hero experience penalty (he is a level 71 if you are wondering), and finally dividing the amount of experience left by the total amount Bob needs to reach the next level. And don’t forget to round up. That is quite a bit to keep track of, especially for student in basic algebra, or who has not yet gotten to algebra. And it is a great deal more interesting than normal story problems we have shoved down our throats… pointless things involving station wagons that carry 9 kids and school buses that carry 17 and the number of apples left in a grocery store that has serious stocking issues. The benefits are evident. For some students, math involving Diablo 2 would prove more interesting than much of the story problems already in use. And it would teach the exact same skills. Furthermore, there is no need to stop with Diablo2. How many Zerglings (no upgrades) would it take to destroy three bunkers stocked with Marines (no upgrades, no Firebots) if all three bunkers were focus-fired on one Zergling at a time, and only eight Zerglings could attack at any one time? Examples could be thought up easily for any game, book, or movie out there.

Why bother? Because it could work. Already a large number of educators are complaining that children are spending way too much time playing video games and watching TV. They seem to think that these activities lessen the abilities to think creatively and problem solve. I have read more than educator mourn the days when kids learned how to divide so they could compute batting averages. They seemed to think that playing baseball is somehow more educational than playing Diablo, a premise that is debatable at best. Baseball or Diablo, the activities kids choose to entertain themselves are not likely to be obviously educational. Instead of complaining about what the students have already chosen to do with their spare time, why not use those activities as a teaching mechanism? Certainly, not every student has the same interests, and not everyone will be interested in the game-derived educational methods. I concede that with out argument. However, I have yet to find anyone who is interested in the seating capacity of fictional and tiny school buses. I have yet to see anyone attracted to a new subject by the price of a gallon of paint and the number of square feet on a barn wall. The status quo is not generating much interest in our kids for developing the skills they will need later. Maybe the system could risk alienating some of the students some of the time, rather than boring all of them all of the time. Do math with StartCraft today, and tomorrow apply those same principals to golf or poetry (yes, there is math in poetry), or photography. Vary the examples that are used among things the students would actually be interested in, and not just among the mundane, often ludicrous, examples the textbook companies publish.

Unfortunately, the only way this is likely to happen is if textbook companies get a clue on reality and start writing textbooks that show some reflection of what students really are interested in doing. Teachers all to often have their hands tied by school corporations, who are in turn bound by the fear of parents. I doubt such common sense methodology would come from either of those sources. Instead, it is likely to not come at all, except from those few and exceptional teachers who understand that teaching that falls on bored ears is not teaching.

In the meantime, I can dream of that wonderful school where writing is taught with character sketches, cooking is taught by the Act V NPCs, music is taught by the Deckard Cain rap…

Disclaimer: Salem’s Fire was written by Luke Blaize and hosted by diabloii.net. The opinions expressed in these columns are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Diii.net.

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