Classroom Technology Opinion

Australian Study Points to Benefits of Games-Based Math

By Tom Vander Ark — May 22, 2013 2 min read
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Recognition that “games can provide challenging experiences that incorporate effective learning principles and sustained engagement,” led Dr. Kristy
Goodwin of Macquarie University to study what she calls Digital Games Based Learning (DGBL) as an emerging pedagogy.

Goodwin reviewed deployment of Mangahigh, a collection of
middle grade math games, in 2011 for the New South Wales Department of Education and Communities. She extended her evaluation of game based learning in 54
Australian schools in a study published in November. Both reports are an evaluation of game-based learning rather than a specific evaluation of Mangahigh.

Key findings of the study using Mangahigh as an example of game-based learning included:

  • Improved student learning outcomes,

  • 100% teachers reported that games had improved student learning,

  • 83% of students reported that the games helped their learning,

  • 94% of students reported that Mangahigh was more enjoyable than traditional modes of mathematics instruction,

  • Teachers reported enhanced student confidence which may lead to greater engagement and motivation, and

  • Instant feedback contributed directly to a more transparent learning process.

Teachers reported that the Mangahigh resources were relevant, accurate, current and engaging. The content of the games, in particular, promoted student
engagement, especially with those students who were typically disengaged or reluctant mathematics learners. The report also showed Mangahigh
provided essential technical skills and some pedagogical knowledge in how to implement technology in a classroom setting.

For success, Goodwin says, “teachers needed positive dispositions towards gaming.” She recommends leading the conversation with “research and classroom
evidence to confirm that DGBL is a valid educational approach.” She recommends upfront and ongoing teacher professional development. The report highlighted
the combined benefits of using games and social learning. “The use of Edmodo, or other online or social networking tools has been shown to be a suitable
platform for facilitating digital collaboration among teachers and professional development providers.”

Most teachers in the study appreciated the alignment between Mangahigh and the adopted core curriculum--a factor that we’ve also found to be important.
However, like Goodwin, our interviews with teachers using adaptive math products suggest that only about half of the teachers were using data from
game-based and adaptive learning systems to shape core instruction and personalize learning.

One subject that Goodwin doesn’t appear to adequately address is implementation fidelity. We have found that, particularly in regards to game-based
supplemental math products, consistent implementation of a coherent instructional program is key to achieving planned objectives. Implementation fidelity
is a function of instructional leadership including clear expectations about use patterns, monitoring results, and leading results analysis that result in
periodic adjustments.

The report is clear about the leading benefit of game-based learning, it “promoted student engagement, especially with those students who were typically
disengaged or reluctant mathematics learners.”

Disclosure: MangaHigh and Edmodo are portfolio companies of Learn Capital portfolio company where Tom is partner.

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The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.