To get students over a major retention hurdle, colleges turn to games

'Math is much more creative than a set of procedures'

The Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) has launched a pilot program that uses game-based learning to teach students remedial math, Jamie Martines reports for the Hechinger Report

Nine students at BMCC took part in a summer course that helps develop algebra skills for science, technology, engineering, and math majors and prepares students for pre-calculus coursework. Students in the program learn these skills through three games:

  • xPonum, in which players collect gems to clear levels and earn badges, focuses on algebra and trigonometry;
  • Project Sampson, in which players use mapping, geography and math to navigate the aftermath of a natural disaster; and
  • Algebots, a puzzle-based algebra game.

Game designers worked directly with students and teachers to develop games that would be both informative and engaging.

"Math is much more creative than a set of procedures," says Kathleen Offenholley, a math professor at BMCC who was involved in creating the curriculum. "And one of the things that games do is that they bring out that creativity."

Also see: How stress-management skills help students succeed

According to Offenholley, game-based learning takes students out of a "procedural mindset" in which they cycle through memorizing content, taking exams, and finishing courses. But understanding the context behind solving an equation could be more helpful to students, and more enjoyable.

"There's this false dichotomy between fun and work," she says. "Actually, when you play games, you work hard. Because you're having fun, you're willing to do more work. And that's the point" (Martines, Hechinger Report, 8/17). 

Pedagogy is evolving. Are your classrooms evolving with it?

  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague