Do Math Video Games Really Improve Math Skills?
Math can be a frustrating challenge for some kids. Less so for most adults, generally because age and experience make math easier to comprehend.
It’s not always so simple for kids.
Each child has a unique learning style. Some children learn to add by counting on their fingers. Others may make up a song to help them with their times tables.
The best teachers accommodate all learning styles.
Even when teachers use multiple strategies to teach basic addition and subtraction skills, it's sometimes hard to tell if kids are truly fluent in math facts.
Flash forward to video games.
They've been around a long time and are a huge hit with kids and teenagers.
To many teachers (and parents), video games may seem like a complete waste of time. Because kids love them, they want to spend a lot of time playing--sometimes to the exclusion of other worthwhile activities.
Enter game-based learning strategies, aka video-based math games.
Educators may wonder if these, too, are a waste of time--or if they actually help kids learn. Current brain research seems to indicate the latter outcome.
A Case Study: Timez Attack
Big Brainz is a case in point. Its designer, Ben Harrison, was tired of hearing his young daughter come home each day saying that she was "stupid."
As she struggled with math, Ben knew there had to be a better way to give his daughter the math skills she needed to feel confident and successful.
After a long period of research and development, Ben started his own company, Big Brainz, which created several math-fact activities, all with game-based graphics and engaging visuals. Recently, Big Brainz became a part of the Imagine Learning family.
Let's consider the Big Brainz multiplication-based activity, Timez Attack.
Timez Attack is an adventure game that takes kids through multiple worlds as they solve multiplication problems. Not only do kids learn multiplication facts; they also become fluent in math fundamentals.
Results are impressive: nationally, fifth graders achieved an average fluency of 94 percent after finishing the program, including Timez Attack and other activities targeting addition, subtraction, and division.
Student Engagement--with a Higher Purpose
As teachers observe students using Timez Attack and other Big Brainz activities, they note the intense engagement of each student.
Kids love the game-based graphics just as much as any video game.
However, unlike non-educational video games, Big Brainz helps students learn and retain math facts.
Teachers can access class, school, and district growth reports that show each student's progress toward automaticity.
Most importantly, teachers know that students are math-fact fluent, which means both groups can approach higher-order math tasks with confidence, not fear.
If game-based learning--and educational video games--are here to stay, these are encouraging trends indeed.