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Oct 16, 2017

Behind the Game: Halve Your Cake

“I really like math, but I didn’t always,” says Laura, a Lumosity Games Engineer. “When you don’t understand math, it tends to be boring and abstract.”

That’s why, when tasked with developing one of our new Math games, Laura strived to create a game that would take math concepts out of the classroom and into the real world: “I wanted to make a game that allows you to really play with numbers, where you can visualize the concepts and the way they’re visualized makes the concepts understandable — it’s not just numbers on a whiteboard that you’re plugging into a calculator.”

Laura worked with our Games Scientists to prototype new game ideas that would challenge proportional reasoning, or the ability to compare and convert quantities across different ratios and representations. To put it in more familiar school terms, think fractions, percentages, and decimals.

The result? Halve Your Cake, which asks players to exercise their proportional reasoning skills by measuring ingredients for baked goods. Instead of numbers, players work with visual representations of numbers, like eggs and flour.

“We did a lot of research on math education, and often times, it’s the visual and tactile learners who say they hate math,” Laura explains. “I think Halve Your Cake makes proportional reasoning really accessible to those learners. My hope is they’ll walk away and think maybe they actually don’t hate math.”

But making proportional reasoning accessible doesn’t mean Halve Your Cake isn’t challenging — after all, ease is another common culprit of boredom. Players must balance accuracy and speed to level up in the game, and the team consulted educational systems to understand how and when different proportional reasoning skills are introduced to learners. As a result, Halve Your Cake’s levels build on each other, becoming more challenging as new concepts are added and must be mastered.

“Play testing with users really helped us figure out the right levels, as well,” Laura says. “Getting them to play the game and observing where they took more time, listening to their feedback — it made figuring out Halve Your Cake’s levels a lot easier.”

Play testers also helped Laura settle on the game’s bakery theme. At Lumosity, a lot of people were rooting for a “ramen shop” theme: ramen is a favorite food around the office. But while ramen remains delicious, our play testers advised us to choose a theme that would be more familiar — no reason to make a math game more confusing than it has to be! Plus, who doesn’t like cake?

Halve Your Cake is one of four new Math games we launched this month. We designed the Math category to help players practice and polish various math skills fundamental to adult life, and the other games are Raindrops, Chalkboard Challenge, and Top That. You can find the new games in the Games Library on web and mobile under “Math,” or through the new “Math” Workout Mode. Whether you’ve always enjoyed math or you’ve recently discovered an affinity for it, let us know what you think on Facebook or Twitter.

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