Playing games with circuit theory?

So, I’ve been given this new module to teach next year: a basic introduction to electronics for those with little background in the subject. One of the books I’ve been reading recently (“Why Don’t Students Like School?” by Daniel T. Willingham) has confirmed what I’ve read elsewhere: that’s it almost impossible to acquire a new skill without a lot of practice.

On the other hand, just repetition of endless examples is rather boring; students don’t have much incentive to do it in a higher education environment where they don’t have to hand in regular homework every week; and having come to university and now consider themselves paying customers, this sort of exercise may not be what they are expecting or willing to engage in.

In any case, I don’t really want to write a lot of examples, and I certainly can’t mark hundreds of papers every week, and really why should students really engage with what can be a bit of a tedious exercise anyway?

So… perhaps time to try and experiment. The circuit theory game. Something that can be automatically marked, but something that will hopefully engage students by giving them scores not just at the end, but as you go. Throw in some elements of game, and with any luck the students will get engaged. Rough idea: they get a certain number of marks for getting a certain score in the game: the greater the score, the more marks. And to get marks you have to progress through the levels, solving problems against the clock.

There’s a very early prototype of the program available now – I’d welcome comments. What could make this more engaging? Is the scoring system sensible? Should the levels automatically increase after a certain number of questions, or should this be left up to the user – the higher the level the more points you get. Your best score for twenty questions gives you a mark – and you can make as many attempts as you like (after all, I’m trying to encourage practice here).

Try it out at

Oh by the way, I got a little bored going between typing on the keyboard and getting out my calculator to work out the sums, so I built a simple calculator into the program. Just type an expression like “3 / (82e3 + 100e3) + 4” into the answer box, and it should work out the expression for you.

There are still a few bugs in it, but it should give you the idea anyway. All comments welcome: will it work? How could it be improved?

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3 Responses to Playing games with circuit theory?

  1. Songtao says:

    This sounds like a great idea! Will play it and get back to you.
    Also 2 ideas may be useful:

    1. A Ranking board where they can compare scores will be encouraging.

    2. Achievements systems are also helpful.

  2. Songtao says:

    I’m back. 😀
    1. You can be wrong for more than once for each question, this shouldn’t happen. enter key will submit the answer, but after that it should be going to the next question instead of submit the answer again (Which will be marked as wrong).
    3. you can move the level bar after the question showed, therefore gain 10 times higher score than you should have.
    4. the score bar should have a “score” at its title, I originally thought it’s in seconds and that’s really really scary experience.
    5. you can drag everything on the map away, is this designed to be like that?
    6. Questions themselves are a bit looks alike, you master 2 of them and the rest are just math practice.
    7.I really really like the calculator design~~
    8. Very pretty design.
    9. It really got me going for quite a while and I am suppose to be working. 😀

    Again, really great ideas Doctor~

  3. Dave says:

    Many thanks Songtao.

    Quick responses:

    1) Just two chances for each question, yes that makes, sense I’ll add that in.
    2) Enter key again to go to next question, yes, good idea as well. Thanks.
    3) Ah! Well spotted. I’d better fix that quick…
    4) OK – will do, that’s easy enough. You might notice the countdown is not linear, it slows down towards the end, so hopefully it’s not quite so scary as it first appears.
    5) It’s only like this while I’m designing the circuits for the questions; in the release version everything will be fixed down.
    6) True… different sorts of questions are easy to add in, but there’s a limit about what you can do with Ohm’s Law. Other ideas very welcome.
    7) You haven’t noticed that 2 / 2 / 2 = 2 then, not 0.5? I’ve got to sort out the priorities of the some the operators. Underway.
    8) Thanks. I think the big green ticks really help; before that it was a bit bland.
    9) That’s a really good sign…

    Yes, an on-screen “high score” page would be a good idea… trouble is that requires access to a web-server running some scripts to keep track of these things. I’m not sure how easy that would be, but I’ll look into it.

    Thanks again for the review!

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