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Broken Rooms

    Broken Rooms
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Book Summary

Title: Broken Rooms

Author: Lisa Castaneda

Publisher: Foundry10 LLC

Broken Rooms is an insightful exploration of the educational use of erroneous examples within the context of the game Portal 2. Authored by Lisa Castaneda, the paper highlights how intentional design flaws in game levels can enhance problem-solving skills in a classroom setting.


The book begins by introducing Portal 2, a puzzle-based game, and its level design tool, The Puzzle Maker. The core concept of Broken Rooms involves students identifying and fixing pre-built rooms with inherent design errors. This method challenges students to solve problems under constraints, increasing the cognitive demand of the task.

Theoretical Framework

The theoretical foundation of the book draws from the relevance of gaming in education. It suggests that fixing errors in game design necessitates a different skill set than merely identifying them. The book aligns with the Common Core Standards for mathematics, emphasizing problem-solving, perseverance, and the ability to identify faulty reasoning.


The study was conducted in middle school math classes over three weeks. It involved 36 students from grades six to eight. The approach required students to rebuild pre-designed rooms with errors and then rectify them within specific constraints. Advanced students were tasked with designing their own 'broken rooms.'

Observations and Discussions

Students' engagement with the game and their varied approaches to problem-solving are thoroughly discussed. It was observed that experience with the game influenced the students' ability to identify and fix errors. The process encouraged creativity, collaboration, and the development of higher-order thinking skills.


The book concludes that the use of erroneous examples in educational settings is highly beneficial. It promotes critical thinking, metacognition, and logical reasoning. Students demonstrated a deeper understanding of game mechanics and problem-solving, proving the effectiveness of this approach in enhancing learning.


The book cites various studies and works, including those by Gee (2007), Polya (1945), and Ohlsson (1996), supporting its methodology and conclusions.

My Take

Broken Rooms is a pioneering work in educational gaming, offering valuable insights into how video games can be effectively integrated into classroom learning. Its focus on problem-solving through game design is not only innovative but also highly relevant in today's technology-driven education landscape.