MangaHigh: Fun Math Games

mangahigh_fun_math_gamesSix Years
After six years or running, a casual gaming company, Toby Rowland stepped down as Co-CEO…
However, in that time he noticed that the players on “King” developed significant skills through casual gaming. This prompted him to question whether it might be possible to make a different kind of game that would push players to take away even more skills.

It’s not so much that Rowland had an idea, but the educational games idea had him. He thought “Mathematics is the largest subject in education and education is the second biggest industry globally…” Not being a mathematician, he needed that voice, that touchstone to help give form to this new thing. So, he rang the only mathematician he knew, the energetic Marcus du Sautoy, who used to be a fellow student at Wadham College, Oxford. Professor Du Sautoy had recently been appointed to the position of Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, tasked with communicating science to the public. This was the beginning of Blue Duck Education Ltd. Du Sautoy would ultimately become the Chairman of the Board of Advisors for Blue Duck.

In the midst of a rather bleak educational landscape in which UK math proficiency had fallen to an all time low, Blue Duck Education Ltd. lauched .
Rowland’s vision of having fun math games that push the player to take away even more skill than he had observed at “King” was now a reality. MangaHigh’s games target kids from 11 to 16 years old, with the greater audience being innovative math educators and parents. The games themselves go beyond simple arithmetic, and help kids find the game in practicing algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, by solving real-world problems.

On launch day, presented five original, GCSE compliant games to the world: BIDMAS Blaster, Save Our Dumb Planet, Pyramid Panic, and Flower Power. A couple of months later, a new game called “Ice Ice Maybe”, was added.

What’s In The Box?
MangaHigh is a freemium site. Many of the games can be played free of charge, but to get the full benefit from the site, you have to sign-up for a paid subscription. The “User” account (for those who have registered, but not paid for premium content) and the “Member” account (for those who have registered and paid for premium content) differ in the following respects:

  • “Users” can play Prodigi games at the Easy Level <<>> “Members” can play unlimited Prodigi games (Easy, Medium, Hard and Extreme)

  • “Members” can Analyze progress and achievements via detailed reporting per lesson

  • “Members” Benefit from system recommendations for achieving personal goals via the to-do list

Like many subscription based education sites, MangaHigh has a Parent login that give a parent a window on the activity of a Member account and access to the Analysis tools. I have no gripes with the information presented and the analysis tool, however I would like to see an e-mail facility that would allow the report e-mailed to up to 5 addresses (similar to that found in the DreamBox Learning Parent Dashboard). This kind of functionality is a good way to keep the person (aunt, uncle, grandmother, or grandfather) who paid for the membership, in the loop.

I found the MangaHigh games rather addicting. They are games in the truest sense of the word, not just a high tech re-image of a typical math drill. These games are adaptive in difficulty (they learn from your responses) to keep the player experience engaging and entertaining.

BIDMAS Blaster is a calculating game in which the player apply the BIDMAS order of operation (Brackets, Indices, Division, Multiplication, Addition, and Subtraction) to calculate the code that will destroy the approaching Roborators or add to your arsenal.

This game is reminiscent of the old “Math Blaster” series… Frenetic from the start, this game can quickly escalate as it draws you into the world of BIDMAS.

Save Our Dumb Planet is a graphing game in which you solve algebraic equations to inform the trajectory of missiles that can destroy meteorites headed for Earth. A panel of three trash-talking scientist are on hand to add to the confusion as you attempt to select the correct equation and plot the necessary waypoints to launch and destroy the approaching meteorites.

For me this game had that math drill feeling. Don’t get me wrong, it was well crafted and thought out, but seemed like a math test.

Pyramid Panic is a Egyptian themed geometry game in which you have been mummified and trapped deep in the bowels of a pyramid. You must use your geometry skills to build bridges across the voids and extricate yourself from the pyramid, keeping out of the reach of Ammit, the mongrel demon.

The MangaHigh crew has done it again! This game crafts a real sense of urgency as the difficulty ratchets up.

Flower Power is a number order game in which you attempt to grow and harvest flowers to earn money. Sharpen your ordering skills by putting decimals, fractions, and percentages in the proper order. Once you’ve grown a full stem of flower, you have to decide whether to havest the stem or let the flowers be pollinated to grow more plants.

Although Flower Power is simple in concept, one has the distinct feeling of keeping many balls in the air.

Ice Ice Maybe is an number estimating game in which your objective is to assist four waddles of penguins in reaching the holiday paradise of Summer Isle. The penguins migration takes them across the perilous Estim Ocean, patrolled by insatiably hungry orca. You must use your estimation and approximation skills to position floating icebergs and bounce the penguins to safety, from glacier to glacier.

While this game has manages to create a sense of urgency, the game play is more linear than it is in Flower Power. However, positioning the iceberg is a complication, inasmuch as you’re learning the scale at the same time you’re trying to use it, so you may find yourself looking for values that aren’t there.

Long story short, the game is very cool in concept and execution… No pun intended.

Prodigi is, without a doubt, MangaHigh’s most significant achievement. It is a math learning engine that uses a database of hundreds of thousands of questions (as well as the solutions and hints) that have been submitted by math teachers. Prodigi is adaptive, so a student will have a highly individualized experience based on ability. It is designed to work in concert with the math games, introducing mathematical concepts as part of game-play and promoting understanding and instinctive response through repetitive problem-solving.

Verdict has stepped up to the plate and hit a home run!

Math is part of the fabric of these games as opposed to something that has been bolted on (as is too often the case) and the games are commercial quality.

If most teachers presented math the way it is presented on MangaHigh, we wouldn’t have so many alienated math students.

Bravo to Toby Rowland, Dr. Marcus du Sautoy, and the entire MangaHigh team.

Encore! Encore!

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