Learning Logic Through Games, Interview with Dr. Micah Tillman

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This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Learning Logic Through Games, Interview with Dr. Micah Tillman.

Learning Logic Through Games, Interview with Dr. Micah Tillman

Learning Logic Through Games, Interview with Dr. Micah Tillman

Learning logic skills is good life preparation for teens. (We know that when we watch the current news and social media environment, right?) Learning logic is also fun for teens when it involves gaming.

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast, Vicki interviews her oldest son, Dr. Micah Tillman. Micah has a PhD in Philosophy and has taught logic at high school and college level for years. Micah’s exploration of logic began in high school with his high school math adventures. These were the early days of homeschooling when there wasn’t much curriculum available for homeschoolers. In order for Micah, who actually liked math, to cover calculus in senior year, we search and finally found Saxon Calculus (new at that time).

Micah had to teach himself calculus because his mom was not very good at math. Rather than help him understand the problems when he was stuck, she simply put on her counselor’s hat and said, “hmmm” to his questions until he solved them out loud. Micah used those skills as a math tutor during graduate school.

Micah was a Computer Science major for his undergraduate degree at Messiah College (now University) where he had to take lots of math. He found out that, while he could do math- and there was lots in his major, he didn’t love it like many of his peers.

For graduate school Micah switched to Philosophy for his studies. He worked as a math tutor for undergrads and found out that he actually did love Algebra. He found out that math has vocabulary of fear: you do “problems” and “exercises”. So he wanted to lessen his students’ fears by helping them think in less fearful language.

After earning his PhD from Catholic University, Micah taught college students Symbolic Logic. He found he was having a blast solving logic problems but his students were miserable, just like his undergrad tutees. He asked himself, “Why do I find it fun but my students are not?”

Micah’s dissertation had been on Edmund Husserl who was also a mathematician and philosopher. Husserl worked on trying to show that the rules of mathematics followed from rules of logic. He then went on to study how signs work, such as +-= . (He then went on to study language and mind, as well.)

Micah’s studies of Husserl led him to solve the problem of students fearing and hating logic by making logic into a game. He changed the ideas of symbolic logic into shapes and colors. This made the ideas of logic concrete and more understandable.

Micah wrote a computer program that turned logic into a mystery puzzle-solving game. The computer game format helped his students learn logic and like learning logic. The game was an “anthropomorphized (human-like qualities) card game” which taught students to play through the steps of logic in a fun way. He used that course to his college students for several years. Then he made it available (for free) on his website.

Micah now teaches 9th and 10th graders the philosophy of math and science for Stanford University’s prestigious online high school. While he’s between classes with his students, he works on an updated version of his logic computer game.

Teens don't ask, "Why do I have to do this?" when they are learning from games. - Dr. Micah Tillman

By the way, you might be thinking:Why learn logic through games?

  • As Micah points out, when faced with a course teens don’t like, they ask, “Why do I have to do this? How am going to use this when I grow up?”
  • He also noticed that they never say that about gaming. Imagine a teenager saying, “Why do I have to play this computer game? How will I use it when I grow up?”
  • Teens learn better when they like what they are doing. Many teens like computer games, so learning logic through a game makes it fun (and more efficient learning).

The name of the computer game that Micah developed is: Chambergon Battle Logic.

Through the game, you help little characters (happy characters and angry characters) work out their feelings which sneakily teaches them logic.

Why is it useful for a homeschool high schooler to learn logic?

Micah says there are several sides of this:

  • Learning logical thinking builds critical thinking skills. It helps teens learn to evaluate when someone presents evidence and a conclusion to them about something in life, whether the evidence is strong and the conclusion is strong. This can be applied to politics, science, music, advertising and more.
  • Learning logical thinking is play. It is a fun way to have recreation (and recreation is often the source of scientific innovation).
  • Learning logical thinking is good exercise for the brain. Mental discipline builds attention and skill.

How can you get hold of Chambergon Battle Logic for learning logic through games?

Go to Chambergon.com and check out the two things there:

  • You can download the original game along with a textbook and user manual. This is free!
    • You can count this as a one-credit high school course. You get an A for the course when you beat the game.
  • Micah is currently porting the game to the Unity and Unreal game engines. It will probably end up on Unreal. (Gamers will understand what this means.)
    • Keep an eye out for information on the new format!

Also catch Micah’s contributions to 7SistersHomeschool:

  • Micah co-wrote with his mom: History and Philosophy of the Western World). Check out this HSHSP interview with Micah where he explains why teens need to learn philosophy.
  • Then at the request of his youngest brother and his friends (who wanted more real philosophy skills after being inspired by History and Philosophy of the Western World), Micah wrote Philosophy in Four Questions.
    • This is a genuine philosophy course that is accessible to teens (the boys all said it was their favorite course in high school). The text answers the four questions that philosophers ask:
      • What is there?
      • How do we know?
      • What should we do about it?
      • Why?

You can find Dr. Micah Tillman at MicahTillman.com (check out his stuff about fractals).

Join Vicki and Micah for an inspiring talk about learning logic through games. And thanks to Seth Tillman for editing!


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Learning Logic Through Games, Interview with Dr. Micah Tillman