Against the Grain: Blind them with golf technique, not science

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The Independent Online

Nipan Maniar is senior lecturer in creative technologies at the University of Portsmouth. He argues that a golf computer game can help children learn maths and physics.

All teachers are mediators between the knowledge that exists and the students who want that knowledge. Education is easy but, as educators, we try to make things complicated, hard to understand. When I was a kid, my parents had to tell me to study, but they did not have to shout at me to play a game. The word "game" itself is so encouraging. We will just play it, because it is fun.

The whole concept in We Love Golf! is that while you are playing you do not realise that you are making calculations, making hard decisions that require strategy as well as maths and physics knowledge.

How, for example, will you react to different wind speeds? To begin with, the whole calculation is done for you and then, as you progress, you have to make the decisions yourself. The whole concept is to help you understand how the calculation works. While you are playing, you do not realise that you are making these decisions: distances, speeds, angling the shot.

A good comparison is a cricket match. After a match is over, I go and play the shots I have seen. I try it many times and then I will get it right. The same thing is true with movies as well. When I watch a martial arts movie, I want to go and fight as well as the hero in the movie. When I'm watching cricket or a martial arts movie, I never pretend that I am learning, but I get inspired and want to go out and do it.

With golf, as well, if you are playing virtually then you know how to react, how to hit a ball. If there is a wind, then when I hit a ball in this manner it will not land in the hole. And when children are in an exam they will get it right, absolutely.

Computer games do tend to make children more aggressive – they do impact kids – but as far as education is concerned, with mathematics and physics, there is no harm. If they are aggressive, it means they can calculate things faster. That's a good thing.

The long-term agenda is to develop strategies that can be approved by an academic council. Why can't children play this game and have their scores assessed by academics? That is the way things are going.