Oxford math professor backs Web games to teach kids

Mon Nov 30, 2009 10:01am EST
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By Tim Castle

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Internet games can boost children's interest in mathematics, says a footballing Oxford University professor who plays wearing the prime number 17 and uses dance to prove theorems.

Marcus du Sautoy says there is "a real crisis" in maths education in English secondary schools, attended by pupils aged 11 to 16, where he says initially enthusiastic pupils "lose interest and become bored."

His response is a glitzy maths website that uses arcade-style games to teach children curriculum topics such as geometry and quadratic equations.

Called Manga High and illustrated in the style of a Japanese comic, website www.mangahigh.com offers free games to the casual visitor but offers a structured maths course for subscribers and is aimed at schools as well as individual pupils.

Du Sautoy is an adviser to the website, created by entrepreneur Toby Rowland, co-founder of King.com, one of the largest internet game companies, and son of the late tycoon Roland "Tiny" Rowland.

The two first met at Oxford University when Rowland, four years younger than Du Sautoy, was seeking advice on how to run a college ball.

"I've seen how much my child plays games on the internet, on his PS3, and when Toby came to me and said can we use all these skills that people are developing ... I thought it was quite an interesting challenge," said Du Sautoy.

He said the aim had been to make an integral part of the games "really challenging kinds of maths" and not just mental arithmetic.   Continued...

<p>Oxford University professor Marcus du Sautoy in an undated photo. REUTERS/Manga High/Handout</p>