The Game of Knowledge

In my TOK classroom, there are a number of occasions when I use the metaphor of a game to convey an idea on the nature of knowledge, especially in maths and science. Usually, I reference chess as the ideal game, played by a set of rules. In a lesson on Maths as an AoK I tell a story where in a distant past TOK class I challenged a student who was a brilliant chess player to a game. In front of the class we set up the board and then I asked for the first move. This was agreed and I swept all of the pieces off the board and shouted ‘I win!’. The students acted with horror pointing out that this is not how you played the game. I pointed out that we had never agreed the rules of the game and therefore I was not bound by their understanding of the rules. Did I get the point across? Well, I did have the Head of the Chess Club track me down for a chat and explain the finer points of the art of playing chess.

What was the point to this playful activity?

In our discussions of Maths and in our discussions of  Science the comparison of these AoKs to a game comes up, especially as you are unpacking the key concepts in these disciplines and therefore issues associated with them. Illustrating an extreme and humorous example of a game is a nice way of provoking a discussion enabling you to guide the opinions expressed in the right direction.
Invent vs. Discover, the question of progress and the issue of reductionism in science or the role of simplistically in maths all allow for a good follow up to this short video.
1 Comment
  • Eileen Dombrowski
    July 29, 2013

    What a great way to introduce the idea of games and rules, Chris! You also raise the idea of assumptions that people make and conventions they don’t even realize they follow. As you sweep them all aside (literally), I can imagine your students outraged and steaming — AND remembering the moment to anchor ideas.

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