Sunday, June 22, 2008

Immersive games beats classroom in maths

Well designed study
The University of Central Florida tested a hypothesis; that interactive maths games are more effective than classroom instruction. This was a well constructed study; The Effects of Modern Math Computer Games on Learners' Math Achievement and Math Course Motivation in a Public High School Setting, Mansureh Kebritchi, Ph.D., Atsusi Hirumi, Ph.D. and Haiyan Bai, Ph.D.

They took 193 algebra students, control groups and then did evaluation through pre- and post-study assessments, surveys, classroom observations and interviews. Over 18 weeks, on average, students in the experimental group made gains of 8.07 points (out of 25), while students in the control group made gains of 3.74 points.

They used an immersive video game world that engages students in the instruction and learning of mathematics. Pre-algebra and algebra objectives are covered through a series of missions that bring math into a world that today's students understand. Students become so captivated in solving problems that they forget they're learning but they don't forget what they've learned. The study has many detailed findings, but the main conclusion was a significant positive effect on student mathematics achievement in a public high school setting:

Gamers do better at maths
Students who played the math video games scored significantly higher on the district-wide math benchmark exam, F (1, 188) = 6.93, p < .05, and on the math performance test generated by the publisher, F (1, 188) = 8.37, p <.05, than students who did not play the games. While students in both the experimental and control groups demonstrated significant gains from pre-test to post-test on the district benchmark exams, students who played the games demonstrated greater gain scores from pre-test to post-test (mean increase of 8.07) than students who did not play the games (mean increase of 3.74).

Higher achievement in standard tests
Higher achievement scores and greater gain scores on district benchmark tests by students who played the games, compared to those who did not play the game are particularly significant because there is a high correlation between the district math benchmark tests and the state-wide math FCAT tests (as reported by the district).

Teachers and students report improved maths
Teacher and student interviews support the quantitative findings. The majority of the interviewed teachers (4 of 5) and students (15 of 15) reported that the participants' mathematics understandings and skills improved as a result of playing the mathematics games.

Positive teacher feedback
According to the teachers, the games were effective teaching and learning tools because they (a) were experiential in nature, (b) offered an alternative way of teaching and learning, (c) gave the students reasons to learn mathematics to solve the game problems and progress in the games, (d) addressed students' mathematics phobias and (e) increased time on task. As one of the teachers stated: "It [the games] makes them want to learn [math]."

Positive student feedback
According to the students, the games were effective because they (a) combined learning and fun, (b) offered mathematics in adventurous and exploratory context and (c) challenged students to learn mathematics.

Consistent with previous studies
The positive results are consistent with prior empirical research on the effects of math games, including those reported by Ke and Grabowski (2007), Klawe (1998), Moreno (2002), Rosas et al. (2003) and Sedighian and Sedighian (1996), suggesting that computer math video games may improve mathematics achievement.

Consistent with meta-analysis
The results also support findings from two meta-analysis, including: (a) Vogel et al. (2006) who concluded that interactive simulations and games were more effective than traditional classroom instruction on learners' cognitive gains based on a review of 32 empirical studies, and (b) Dempsey et al. (1994) who concluded that students who played math video games and attended the traditional classroom instruction achieved higher mathematics score than students who only attended traditional classrooms based on 94 empirical studies.


Anonymous said...

Link to the paper?

Lars Hyland said...


Very interesting piece of research.
Any idea how popular these games are within Education in the UK?

Donald Clark said...

Not much Lars, but tip my hat to the guy at Caspian Learning and Consolarium (google 'em).

Anonymous said...


Never seen these but they sound interesting. I was talking about your post with my brother who is M. Tech in Biotechnology(I give the back ground as he says that algebra is indispensable. He said that all the web based tecnology is based on these equations. I think you meant that algbra is not used in day-to-day things but some times I find myself using the simpler equations for calculations. This concept is great for children who do not like the subject. Great post and thanks for sharing.

Xamuel said...

As a math TA, this doesn't really surprise me all that much. The teaching formula we have is one we've had for centuries, and it's barely taken any advantage at all of the massive technology gains we've made since it began. I suspect the barriers to seeing this sort of thing in the classroom are more political than anything... the first politician to seriously propose video games replace mathbooks would be laughed out of office, sadly...