I was #1 this week in Ole Miss Math Contest

I was quite pleased this week to discover that I made the top of the list in the Ole Miss Math Contest for Algebra this week.  As a science fiction author, I like to practice my math skills.  You never know when you might get an idea for a math-related short story, as I did with “Oddly Perfect” (about an encounter with a 4 dimensional being), published in The Fifth Di in 2012.  At times, I also tutor students for the Math portion of the SAT exam.

Serious Games – Career Counselor idea

For a long time I’ve had this idea for a Career Counselor series of serious games.  Think of it simply as analgous to the old Encyclopedia or in more modern times, Wikipedia, except just for types of jobs.  There have always been books or data sources that contain large, comprehensive collections of job titles, job descriptions, job categories, etc.  But what I haven’t seen, and I’d love to see, is a freely (or inexpensively) available collection of serious games for most, if not all, kinds of jobs.

Here’s an example.  Say that a high school student (or college student) doesn’t have a clue what they would like to do for a living, or perhaps they know but they aren’t sure what it entails.  While there are many options today, such as Wikipedia, counseling centers at schools, books on the subject, and intern positions at companies, there may also be games that simulate work in desired field.  However, these are not necessarily (and often are not) serious games.  To me, a serious game that teaches a students about a particular job must at least offer them: 1) comprehensive information about the job (or at least links to such information online and in books), 2) a fully interactive experience that includes application for the position, many aspects of the job (both postiive and negative), 3) a standardized (or at least common) method of determining if the student has the skills and/or desire to pursue this kind of work.

Ideally, there would also be a set of development tools which would make it easier for educators, career counselors, and game developers to get together and create this kind of collection of games or perhaps just to build into all work-related video games the “serious” part.  One possibility is some form of combined Wiki + game play website.

I realize I’m talking off the top of my head, but I still think this idea has merit.

Book ratings math

Several major websites sell books and offer ratings and prices.  You can typically sort by relevance, ratings, price, and other factors, but I haven’t seen an ordering by price per rating.

For example, say one textbook sells for $80 and receives an average of 5 stars, but another similar textbook sells for $60 and receives an average of 3 stars.  The more expensive book costs $80/5 = $16 per star, while the other book costs $60/3 = $20 per star.  I still have to decide if the extra $4 per star is worth saving $20 overall, but at least this gives me another tool with which to decide my purchase.  If a preview is offered, I may flip through a few pages and still decide the $60 book is good enough.