A Case Study of Computer Gaming for Math: Engaged Learning from Gameplay?

Oct. 05, 2008

Source: Computers & Education, vol 51 issue 4 (2008), p. 1609–1620

(Reviewed by The Portal Team)

Employing mixed-method approach, this case study examined the in situ use of educational computer games in a summer math program to facilitate 4th and 5th graders’ cognitive math achievement, metacognitive awareness, and positive attitudes toward math learning.

Research Questions

(1) How did students interact with computer math games and gamebased learning environment?
(2) Did math game-playing improve students’ math learning outcomes?

Study participants

Fifteen 4th–5th grade students were enrolled in the summer math program and participated in this research project. They were 10–13 years old, with five being socio-economic disadvantaged, 10 being girls, and all being white.
2 Participants’ preprogram school grades were collected.
Their math abilities were classified into four levels – advanced, proficient, basic, and below basic based on their performances in the prior Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test.
Out of the 15 students, four were advanced, six were proficient, and five were basic or below basic in math achievement.
Participants were questioned on their prior gaming experience and if necessary, trained to know basic computer skills, such as using a mouse to click buttons on the computer screen.
At the beginning of the summer math program, all participants took one orientation session to familiarize them with the gaming environment and were trained to do think-aloud, a strategy in which participants verbalize aloud while interacting with computer games, thus modeling the cognitive and affective processes of game-playing.

The results indicated that students developed more positive attitudes toward math learning through five-week computer math gaming, but there was no significant effect of computer gaming on students’ cognitive test performance or metacognitive awareness development.
The in-field observation and students’ think-aloud protocol informed that not every computer math drill game would engage children in committed learning.
The study findings have highlighted the value of situating learning activities within the game story, making games pleasantly challenging, scaffolding reflections, and designing suitable off-computer activities.

Updated: Dec. 01, 2008