Second only to pregnancy, Algebra is the leading cause of high school dropouts in America. It is in Algebra that students no longer calculate with numbers, but instead they manipulate symbols.
Many students, previously confident in math class, begin to doubt their ability to manage abstractions. They drift away from science, technology, engineering and math. Much American talent is squandered as frustrated students abandon these important careers. While the United States now attracts talent from around the world to fill this gap, it is not assured that it always will.
The goal of Tee Zero is to present the player with a series of levels that exercise the entire High School Algebra curriculum as formulated in the Common Core standards. Each level integrates instruction, exercise and assessment in a precisely crafted game challenge. The project was initiated with the technical and financial support of innovative program executives (Jim Sink and Dr Dan Oblinger) at Microsoft Game Studios and DARPA, respectively.
Players are transported to a miniature golf course in the distant future. The caddy, a dyspeptic Scottish robot named Duncan, explains how each tricky hole will yield to an algebraic analysis. Other robots, Nixie and Laserus, measure distances and angles. Finally the player has to manipulate the terms of an equation in order to sink his putt. Many elements of Tee Zero introduce innovative concepts. The most radical of these is the minimalist GUI employed for manipulating the symbols of algebra.
Due to management changes at both Microsoft and DARPA, this project was orphaned and never fully funded. Nevertheless, several valuable innovations spun out of it. Notably, GamesThatWork was awarded US Patent US9092317 for its innovative direct method to teach and perform algebraic operations.