From the #iPhone-game-as-metaphor-for-curriculum-design hashtag, we have Geared, which I purchased because I'm almost completely obsessed with little spinny things, a purchase which I almost immediately regretted.
- The early levels are ridiculously easy. Not a serious problem in and of itself. The same is true of Flight Plan, which you'll recall I rather liked.
- But game play gets harder only over a series of completely nonsensical contrivances. You're dropping gears into a system, blitzing your way through easy. Then on level 21, as the game flips to medium, you're confronted with "no-drop zones." That's really it. Everything else is the same. You're arbitrarily excluded from routes you know would otherwise work for reasons that have nothing to do with the function of gears.
There's no good reason to criticize an iPhone game from this forum except for the robust metaphor it offers for conceptual growth in math. Few textbooks get this right — and I include here the ones that do a pretty good job of being less helpful:
whenever possible, introduce new skills and new knowledge as the solution to the limitations of old skills and old knowledge.
Please argue with me here but I don't think my freshmen really care if career professionals use math in their jobs. This "career" concept is supremely abstract to most and therefore mostly useless to me as a motivator. I've found a much stronger motivator in a palpable sense of forward momentum, in a coherent skill set, in real, uncontrived challenges.
I'm teaching remedial Algebra for a fourth year now and the change I make to my curriculum far more than any other is to add this connective tissue.
You're comfortable with a dot plot? Fine. Let's put you in a place where a dot plot is tough to execute — say, a large data set with no mode and a huge range. That's annoying. Then bring in the box-and-whiskers, the histogram, or whatever. I try not to introduce the next concept simply because it's the next chapter in the book or the next bullet point on a list of standards or because it's "what we're learning today." In other words, I try to stay away from the no-drop zones.