This is one of the questions that have been in my life way. I don’t know even a rough answer, but some basic thoughts around it.
My point of view is widely influenced by the so called Palo Alto Group, but also from my mathematician formation. And because of this influence, I don’t want to discuss the “mental” process of learning. But how we can improve the learning (or teaching) of solving problems skills.
At first glance we can find some inspiration on our relatives in the animal world. Infants mammals simulate a lot of adult behavior in their play behavior. Playing is, for infant mammals, a training for grown up life. But play behavior is also a critical part for relationship building in mammals world. Social interactions are enforced by and for play behavior.
Play is also interesting for us, in adult human learning, because there is no “natural” negative predisposition against it. We can use games in order to construct relationships between knowledge and learners that can be used after in more traditional ways of training.
I know that there are a lot of other words to say about learning an games. This is just one of them.
A theory of play and fantasy. Steps To an Ecology of Mind.
Chandler Publishing Company, (1972), pp. 177-193.
The Development of Social Interaction, Play, and Metacommunication in Mammals: An Ethological Perspective
The Quarterly Review of Biology, Vol. 47, No. 4 (Dec., 1972), pp. 412-434
Selective and Evolutionary Aspects of Animal Play
The American Naturalist, Vol. 108, No. 964 (Nov. – Dec., 1974), pp. 850-858