Enhancing Mathematics Education with Educational Games: Can Erroneous Examples Help?

National Science Foundation, Award No: 1238619.
Division of Research On Learning

This project at Carnegie Mellon University tests an educational game aimed at addressing problems students face learning mathematics. The PI plans to design, develop, iteratively test, and scientifically evaluate a potentially transformative gaming technology. This approach combines an educational game environment, erroneous mathematics examples, state-of-the-art interaction design, and adaptive tutoring technology to help engage and motivate students to learn mathematics. The project develops a blueprint for educational games that can be used with middle school students in both formal and informal settings. Two research questions guide the research: Can erroneous examples increase learning and add motivation to an educational game? Will making erroneous examples adaptive to individual students increase learning and motivation beyond the non-adaptive version of the educational game?

The project randomly assigns 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students to an intervention that brings together design thinking and design activity in co-designing sessions involving students and their teachers. This approach allows students and teachers to create prototypes of specific interfaces for mathematical games using results from the co-designing sessions. The prototypes involves developing personas, scenarios, wire-framing, rapid prototyping, and speed dating. It also includes rapid concept evaluation sessions created iteratively with students and their teachers to inform the final game design. An online software instrument logs student data from pre-questionnaire, pretest, game playing, posttest, delayed post-test, and post-questionnaire. The software also logs correct and incorrect attempts at solving problems, evaluations of these attempts by the tutor, the number of hints requested, and the amount of time spent on task. These data provide immediate feedback to teachers and researchers about student understanding of specific concepts in mathematics. The project assembles a multi-disciplinary team of experts from learning domains using erroneous examples, educational technology, intelligent tutoring systems, human-computer interaction and interaction design, prolific experimental educational psychologist, and a cognitive scientist with a long history and knowledge of mathematics education. The expectation is that these partners will increase the effectiveness of the design outcome as proven in other co-design studies.