Educational Merit and Frantic Fun

May 22, 2019 | Posted by Nathan King


Dr. Webster’s Outmatched™ is the perfect blend of educational merit and frantic fun for students as they try to outwit one another while they memorize powerful points from history. Desiring a greater understanding of the how’s and why’s of Dr. Webster’s creation, I decided to ask him to share his philosophy of games in education. His measure of success for education and the story of his rationale, it turned out, was not what I expected.

“Outmatched arose out of a problem,” Dr. Webster began. He knew that true education was achieved when students could readily recall the body of knowledge that they’d learned. Even at the time when Dr. Webster began his teaching career in the World War II era, it had long been known that persistent repetition of specific information over a long period of time eventually results in lifelong retention of facts. In Anna Ingham’s classroom, she built her environment to engage students for fifty-five repetitions of material. Considering this, Dr. Webster reflected, “When I began to look at how to achieve fifty-five repetitions, I knew that in my own education and in the education before me, teachers had achieved this by chanting.”

Obviously, some teachers questioned the value of rote memorization, partly because some instructors had failed to do it effectively. Dr. Webster agreed with this concern, saying, “Chanting can be mindless. You have to have more than fifty-five repetitions if it's mindless.” However, Dr. Webster then made the essential connection that the educational reformers had missed. “Part of the new educational system that came in after the Second World War and that I faced as a teacher is the fact that they threw out many things and left huge gaps [in the educational process]. One of these gaps was a failure to replace chanting after they removed it. They threw out drill!”

With the elimination of drill, Dr. Webster saw the tremendous collapse of the educational system looming. The rationale for this wholesale removal of memorization in education was that the stimulation of creative thought had gained an ascendency, and “mindless drill” was seen as the antithesis of creativity. Dr. Webster mused about the issue, “You know, I'm not sure that in our society there was any uptick of creativity in the time after World War II. I've not seen any evidence of that.

“Before you can create,” Dr. Webster went on, “you must know the path of how it works. Then, there's your foundation for creation. If you take away the factual basis [for creative thought], then there is no creativity.”

Dr. Webster began to work out a theory of education that would put feet to what he already knew worked: memorization. “I needed something that would get the repetitions in but would not drive children crazy. I realized that the weaknesses that the new educators talked about in chanting and mindless drill—I realized what they said was true. But they just told us to stop it and didn't tell us what to replace it with, so most teachers didn't replace it with anything.”

Eventually Dr. Webster arrived at a solution. He recognized that games provide repetition. That would solve the problem. Dr. Webster knew that there were other ways of accomplishing memorization, such as Mrs. Ingham's Grammar Song. “If I could put something into a song, I could get repetition.” But singing was limited, both in terms of ready recall and in terms of the complexity of memorized facts. “I don't see how you could get what we're putting into this game into songs. But kids like games; they like competition.”

Our conversation soon ended, and I reflected on Dr. Webster’s path to “Outmatched.” He had begun with the knowledge of what worked in education. Though he understood the intentions of educational reformers and the ills of yesteryear that they were trying to address, he built a system that could accomplish the accuracy of rote memorization without the pitfalls or stagnation of drill-based doldrums. The result was a method of factual instruction with strong educational merit in the midst of a fun and frantic game. That’s success by any measure.


Nathan King, the customer marketing manager for IEW, grew up as the son of a pastor in Wichita, Kansas. Following his graduation from Manhattan Christian College and Kansas State University with a degree in secondary education in history, he worked for thirteen years as a youth pastor in his hometown. Since he began working for IEW, Nathan has enjoyed both the marketing and customer service sides of his position. Nathan and his wife of thirteen years, Melissa, homeschool their four children, but it is his amazing wife that does the lion’s share of this vital mission!

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