Digital games have been around for decades, and it seems that their use has been studied in an educational environment with some success. Serious games, which are defined to be fun, entertaining, and educational, have been studied and have been linked to increased user motivation, and are able to teach factual information. (Bellotti et al., 2013) In fact, in another study “results indicated that digital games were associated with a 0.33 standard deviation improvement relative to nongame comparison conditions.” (Clark et al., 2016)
With these types of results, it’s no wonder that teachers are trying to find ways to incorporate digital games in their class. In my 20+ years of teaching high school math, it has been a goal of mine to increase student motivation and provide differentiation. One online resource that I have known for some time is Coolmath-games.com. I came across this website via search engine some time ago, and they have a wide variety of games that incorporate strategy, skill, numbers, logic, and puzzles. A sister website is Coolmath.com, which includes a variety of lessons and games that help students with Pre-Algebra, Algebra, and Pre-Calculus content. These can be accessed to provide differentiation to students that need remedial help, or provide challenges.
Another online resource available is Get the Math, which is a website dedicated to providing teachers and students real-world applications of Algebra 1. They provide video explanations and interactive challenges that can be applied to areas of music, fashion, video games, restaurants, basketball, and special effects. (2017) The music section provided an explanation of using math to create a hip-hop beats by combining different tracks with differing beats per minute by analyzing and modifying them to have the same beat. It was a great way to explain the idea of rates/ratios, and patterns. The video game section described how you would program an object to maneuver in a coordinate field, and not hit obstacles. Students would need to know how to write equations of lines and provide coordinates of safe passage.
Two more online resources that I have found to help with differentiation with games are Math Playground, and Math Games. Both sites provide content for grades K-8 as well as some Pre-Algebra, and standards are cross-referenced for those that want information about how these games use math.
I do believe that these math games would allow students to be more engaged and motivated to learn and apply math, and also provide differentiation. The only concern a teacher would have is to make sure there is 1:1 for your class. If there is not enough technology to be used at the same time, teachers can create groups or stations and rotate them to allow everyone access. There are a variety of tactile, hands-on games that can be used to learn math too.
Bellotti, Francesco; Kapralos, Bill; Lee, Kiju; Moreno-Ger, Pablo; Berta, Riccardo. (2013). Assessment in and of Serious Games: An Overview. Hindawi Publishing Corporation, Advances in Human-Computer Interaction, Volume 2013, Article ID 136864
Clark, Douglas B.; Tanner-Smith, Emily E.; Killingsworth, Stephen S. (2015). Digital Games, Design, and Learning: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, March 2016, Vol. 86, No. 1
CoolMath. (2017). [website]. Retrieved from http://www.coolmath.com/
CoolMath-Games. (2017) [website]. Retrieved from http://www.coolmath-games.com/
Get the Math. (2017). [website]. Retrieved from http://www.thirteen.org/get-the-math/teachers/overview-of-the-lessons/26/
Math Playground. (2017). [website]. Retrieved from http://www.mathplayground.com/games.html
Math Games. (2017). [website] Retrieved from https://www.mathgames.com/