Another Awesome Story

23 Nov

Yet another example of how tabletop roleplaying games can help kids with school. (This is now one of a series of parent-focused posts.) This story is from the Paizo forums:

Well, I’m not real good at the esoteric things. But I do have examples of learning concrete real world skills.

Some years back, both of my boys were having trouble in school. Though they are both reasonably intelligent, they were at the bottom of their respective classes in reading, spelling, and mathematics. One has an actual learning disability that makes reading very difficult and slow. The other just really didn’t try. I think because he was reading as well as his older brother who obviously wasn’t getting in trouble for it.

I got them interested in Magic The Gathering card game (including a computer version that let them play against the AI all they wanted). Well, to play that game you have to read and understand the card then add and subtract all those numbers. Then decide what will well work together in a deck.

In one game there is more reading and basic math than in any 2 school lessons that we would have to fight all night to get them to complete. Yes, eventually they would get the cards memorized. But that is also a good skill. Didn’t bother me at all. Every so often I’d get them a new booster back that they would have to understand then figure out how to incorporate in their decks.

After a couple months when they had that well in hand. I introduced them to DnD 3.0 books I still had lying around (I wasn’t in a gaming group at that time). They loved it. There’s tons more crap to read, understand, consider, add, subtract, multiply, divide, etc… than in any card game.

“Dad, my ranger’s got a bunch of gold but not enough for a better bow. What can he buy to be better at shooting and stuff? Well, maybe look at a wand of a ranger spell that will help like Cat’s Grace. They can really use that? What’s that do? How much does it cost? I don’t remember exactly off the top of my head, go look it up in the players handbook.”

(Of course I did remember, but I wanted him to check it.) Sure I had to help him with a bunch of words and some math, but for the next couple of hours he worked over the ranger spell list, what the spells did, how it might help him, and how much it cost. Found he couldn’t afford what he wanted. I suggested a partially charged wand might be found and more affordable. Then more time was spent figuring how much he could afford and if he wanted to spend all that.

It was quite literally almost an entire evening of general studying for his 3 most difficult classes. He didn’t realize it and loved every minute of it.

A couple months later their teachers asked us what we had done with the boys. In less than a semester they had gone from the very bottom of the class (with my wife and I pulling out our hair in frustration) to the top fourth of the class. I said “I got them interested in a fun game that has a heavy dictionary’s worth of rules.” They were shocked. They were afraid my wife and I had them in some sort of facist style boot camp studying all night every night. I answered, “Nope they got themselves studying all night every night and they don’t even know it.”

Their vocabulary is a bit skewed shall we say. But all through college they had instructors that would be surprised at some of the words they knew and used correctly in normal conversation. Adults don’t expect a 4th grader to use words and phrase like pantheon, exclusion, area of affect, rebuke, dimension, non-combatant, ragnarok, etc… Especially not to use them correctly.

They were quicker and more accurate on their basic math than a math major. You know the same math you use to figure out whether this can of peanut butter on sale is a better buy than the two-pack.

At an age were most of their class mates were reading comic books they started reading the hobbit. Because I said it was written kinda like a long DnD adventure. Then we got in a big hours long discussion of how it wasn’t really like a DnD adventure because X. Sounds to me like a comparative literary evaluation of a several hundred page novel when their class mates were doing 1/2 page book reports on a 50 page kids book.

It is one of my parenting decision that I am most proud of. And I almost didn’t do it because I was initially afraid if they really liked MtG, they would do that instead of studying. I finally agreed to it as a reward for something I don’t now remember. Probably for passing a spelling test or something like that.

-ElterAgo at

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Posted by on November 23, 2014 in For Parents


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