Participants in the evaluation included 250 middle school students, 10 middle school mathematics teachers, and two computer resource teachers from four schools in Southeastern North Carolina. Participating schools were West Pender and Cape Fear middle schools in Pender County and Trask and D.C. Virgo middle schools in New Hanover County.
“We hoped our research would explain how playing serious, high quality, interactive video games such as DimensionM influences student achievement and self-efficacy in mathematics,” said Albert Ritzhaupt, assistant professor in the Watson School of Education and lead researcher of the study. “It not only demonstrated the impact of gaming on students, but we likewise learned a great deal about educators’ responses to and interactions with this new method of learning.”
The DimensionM instructional video games used in the study are designed to reinforce key math concepts through a series of cutting-edge, first-person action adventure missions that incorporate three-dimensional graphics, sound, animation and storylines comparable to those in popular video games. Students practice and master math concepts previously discussed in class by successfully navigating a myriad of middle school level math and algebra lessons embedded in the game. The purpose of the game is to help students absorb the complexities of math by presenting them in a format that is fun and engaging.
Student evaluation of DimensionM was positive: More than 90 percent indicated that some or most of the activities were fun; approximately 67 percent felt the activities were just right in their level of complexity, and about 89 percent believed DimensionM allowed them to demonstrate some or most of their mathematics skills and knowledge. The broad evaluation examined student attitudes toward mathematics, mathematics self-efficacy and mathematics achievement before and after the research study was conducted. Mathematics achievement was measured by student performance on a low-stakes assessment linked to North Carolina middle grades standards.
Ritzhaupt added, “During our post-research focus group, teachers were asked if they thought the relationship had changed between them and their students as a result of integrating the educational game. All teachers, 100 percent, answered that the relationship had changed, indicating that many felt that the students now saw them in a different way.”
The teachers described a closer, more personal connection to their students. One teacher stated that, “Students find gaming exciting and the mere fact that I was offering it in my classroom made a connection. It made me ‘more cool’ to them.”
“The use of modern educational games in formal K-12 settings is at a tipping point,” said Ntiedo Etuk, chief executive officer of Tabula Digita. “Research has shown that 97 percent of teenagers play video games, and that the amount of time gamers devote to playing video games is three times greater than what they devote to any other activities. So imagine what could be accomplished in a classroom where serious educational video games are readily available – the sky’s the limit.”
Ritzhaupt was joined in the research endeavor by assistant professor Heidi Higgins and technology coordinator/lecturer Beth Allred, both in the Watson School of Education.