alice in summerland

learning and teaching math in alice

The stage is SET

To my thousands of loyal blog readers who I know are out there but manage to bypass Google Analytics’ page views counter: I apologize for not posting last night. It was, however, in good intentions—I had a breakthrough.

The player has just found his third set: 1 red squiggle, 2 green ovals, and 3 blue rectangles—all different numbers, colors and shapes.

After staying at work until 7 working on my SET Alice game which I never thought I’d be able to finish, I went to dinner, hung out with friends, and returned to programming SET until about 1:30 a.m. when everything somehow came together and I found myself with a fully functional game that follows all of the rules of the regular game and is arguably also more fun!

I learned how to play SET a few summers ago at a math program at Princeton, and ever since I have loved the game. Although it does not directly apply to specific math lessons, it promotes the type of analytical thinking that makes one successful in math. The rules are pretty simple: to begin the card game, deal 12 cards onto the table. Each card has four features: number (1, 2 or 3), color (red, green or purple), shape (oval, squiggle or diamond) and shading (clear, opaque or striped). The winner is the player who finds the most sets. A set is a collection of three cards that satisfies the following condition: in every category (number, color, shape and shading), each card must be the same or different. For example, the the three cards could all be purple, or one could be purple, one could be red and one could be green, but if two were purple and one was green, then there wouldn’t be a set. When a player takes the 3-card set he has just found, the dealer puts 3 more cards on the table. This continues until the deck is gone.

There were a few changes in my Alice adaption of the classic SET game. The classic game has 81 cards, which would have been a lot of objects to import keep track of for me and for a middle schooler playing the game, so I decided to only include the opaque cards so that shading was no longer a factor, giving me a total of 27 cards. Additionally, since the computer need not be bound by the limitations of a card deck, my game currently continues for however long the player wants to play (this was also easier than ending the game when the deck was finished, but I also think it’s more exciting). The score is displayed as the number of sets the player has found. Also, I cut these cards from a picture I found on the Internet with all 81 cards, but for some reason the picture used rectangles instead of diamonds and blue instead of purple. Not really a problem for people who have never played SET, though.

This game was definitely the most exciting thing I’ve made this summer. For one, I was nervous to make a card game because of all the objects and the fact that, even after I import all the object, Alice has no way of telling that my card has two purple ovals, for example, so I had to keep an array of all the cards with three corresponding arrays for numbers, colors and shapes. But after making this game, I want to make some more card games! After the objects are imported and arrays are created, it’s actually not that difficult, and the games can be a lot of fun!

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