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Game Theory and Recreational Mathematics: A module to develop problem-solving skills

CETL-MSOR Conference 2019, Dublin City University, Ireland (05/09/2019). Alexander Corner (speaker), Peter Rowlett, Edd Smith, David O'Sullivan and Jeff Waldock.

The presentation outlines the design and development of a new final year, optional module 'Game Theory and Recreational Mathematics', and reports on the first year of delivery. The module aims to develop an appreciation of the historical development of game theory and recreational mathematics and their relation to mathematics in general, as well as developing problem-solving skills and understanding of mathematical topics (combinatorial game theory, graph theory, combinatorics, computation and complexity) through games and recreational mathematics. We argue that games and recreations are a suitable mechanism to develop these topics that is popular with students.
The module emphasises the role of problem-solving. An interesting feature is in assessment, including an exam where students are given problems they may not be able to solve, with marks awarded for showing a problem-solving methodology. Problem-solving is focused on a Polya-style heuristic. This talk will discuss explicit teaching of problem-solving and its assessment, including sharing the experience of marking this exam. Student feedback on the first year of delivery will be discussed, including positive feedback relating to unseen problem-solving.