Video Games—Helping Students Develop Their Mathematical Skills

Matthew C. Winner, a teacher and co-author of the book Teach Math with the Wii,” shared that “in grade school we’re always trying to relate math to the real world. Some kids have been good at video games their whole lives and never realized they were doing math the whole time.” To meet the goals of K-12, schools are already adopting game-based teaching strategies to better engage students and teach Math effectively. With gaming tools like the Nintendo Wii and even smart devices, it’s now easier for them to relate mathematical concepts with real things.

Now, it’s really common to see students glued to handheld gaming devices or console controllers inside the classroom. If you check out the specs of the recently-released iPhone 5C on, you’ll see that it was built for gaming. In fact, Bill Gates, billionaire-philanthropist and founder of Microsoft, revealed in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “imagine if kids poured their time and passion into a video game that taught them math concepts while they barely noticed, because it was so enjoyable.” Today’s technology is actually helping math-phobic students overcome their fear of math and improve their skills.

So, the question is: how can video games help students learn Mathematics? Let’s find out below.

MIT’s “The Radix Endeavor”

When we talk about MMOs or Massively Multiplayer Online games, the first things that come to mind are quests, PvP (player vs. player), and creating online bonds. Lately, these online multiplayer games have caught the attention of several educators, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or MIT. Jody Clark-Midura, a researcher at the MIT Education Arcade, said that “these kinds of environments have the potential to capture learning that’s difficult to capture in face-to-face settings.” Their game, The Radix Endeavor, takes the basic principles of online games: think individually, collaborate with others, and solve problems together. Topics like geometry, probability, statistics, and algebra are tackled in this game.

In line with the current Common Core standards, the game’s co-creator, Filament Games, believes that the “benefits to using a game-based environment to teach certain math or science concepts, like being able to speed up time to see the outcome of a decision that would take months in a real-world experiment.” The Radix Endeavor actually trains students to think like mathematicians and scientists, which builds their basic skills and knowledge.

A Definite “1UP” for Test Scores

Getting a “1UP” while playing the “Super Mario Bros” is definitely something to cheer and brag about. Well, in a 2012 study conducted by SRI International, it revealed that “when digital games were compared to other instruction conditions without digital games, there was a moderate to strong effect in favor of digital games in terms of broad cognitive competencies.” This just shows that video games are actually helping students get better scores in the STEM subjects. They’re actually helping these kids build the necessary skills and confidence to tackle a variety of Math problems.

Winner also believes that video games are “building confidence for those kids who aren’t good at anything. This is a chance to show them that they have a strength, and that it connects to a lot of things. They’re doing a lot of math, but they might not realize it is Math.” In the future, games will be incorporated into math lessons to help students find their areas of improvement.

Peggy Sheehy, Game Designer for WoW in Schools, also believes that “gaming is almost like the scientific method. You get your quest, you form a hypothesis, you try it out, you encounter challenges and you draw conclusions.” Remember that through play and constant practice will help them develop their mathematical skills. The right teacher, game, and motivation can definitely make a better student.


About the Author Zoe Allen loves to write about online learning and video games. She frequently visits sites like Game Spot for the latest game news, and O2 for gadget news. On her spare time, Zoe also loves to solve Sudoku puzzles. Follow her on Twitter: @ZoeAllennn

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