History of Games in Education – Jorge Nuno Silva


Games have been part of education since the very beginning. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato pointed out that children learn best by play. The importance of play and games in education can be traced throughout history.  Alcuin of York wrote the first collection of mathematical recreations. Educational entertainment were found to be effective in different contexts e.g. pedagogical comedies and educational fables. Rythmomachia was the most famous game of the Middle Ages. Also known as the “Philosopher’s Game”,  it was invented as a pedagogical game to teach arithmetic: play involved mastering ratios and multiplication. It vanished when mathematics moved in a different direction (arithmetic is not really mathematics) and chess took over.  Elaborate games were invented to teach specific subjects e.g. theology  and astrology.  Metromachia was a war boardgame invented to teach geometry. Playing cards were adapted for educational purposes e.g the teaching of mechanics.  The Algebra Game was developed by the philosopher Bishop George Berkeley.  Sometimes a mathematical discovery was made into a puzzle: William Hamilton used graph theory and marketed a dodecahedron puzzle in which you had to visit all the cities in the world.  The presentation ends with the Game of Logic invented by Lewis Carroll. Several of the slides are illustrated with photos of artefacts of the games museum in Lisbon.