Study Shows Video Game Improved Math Skills, Shows Potential of Game-Based Learning

A recent study by Holly Pope, Jo Boaler, and Charmaine Mangram of the Stanford Graduate School of Education showed that students using a digital math game three times a week demonstrated a greater increase in number sense at the end of the evaluation period than those who did not. While this study, which focused on students at one school with one teacher using a single digital game (Wuzzit Trouble), does not mean that all digital games will improve learning outcomes, it does point to areas for meaningful research.

“Finally, next steps might include the development of an evaluation tool for digital math games could aid parents and teachers in differentiating between the thousands of apps available for download from the Internet. Such a tool would help them evaluate the math apps along three dimensions: math content, mathematical proficiency (or math practices), and the video game learning principles. This would help parents and teachers to make informed decisions and selectively choose digital math games that will enhance their child’s math learning,” advise the researchers.

Writing for Forbes, Jordan Shapiro, an edtech evangelist who will deliver the keynote address at the AAP PreK-12 Learning Group’s 2015 Content in Context conference), believes that this study is significant. First, by using control and comparison groups, the impact of the digital game becomes clearer. Second, the study was not about a game replacing the teacher but using it as a tool to supplement the regular classroom instruction. Finally, Shapiro reiterates the researchers’ observations about the elements that make for a successful learning app.

“The majority of games fail because they attempt to teach skills rather than thinking. They focus on retention rather than understanding,” comments Shapiro. “They miss the whole reason we should be excited about game based learning in the first place: because it offers the potential to change the common way we approach teaching and learning. Games can help students improve their critical thinking and problem solving capabilities while offering clear assessment data that could eliminate our dependency on regurgitation and memorization based evaluations.”

Read “Wuzzit Trouble: The Influence of a Digital Math Game on Student Number Sense,” by Holly Pope, Jo Boaler, and Charmaine Mangram, Stanford Graduate School of Education (February 2015)

Read “Stanford Study Shows Dramatic Math Improvement From Playing Video Games Just 10 Minutes Per Day,” by Jordan Shapiro, (April 27, 2015)

For more information on the 2015 Content in Context visit

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