Digital math games and apps: choose wisely
The cornucopia of digital learning tools spawned during the Covid-19 pandemic to support remote learning can still be effectively used in a physical classroom context, in particular to supplement and reinforce learning outside synchronous classes.
In the case of Mathematics, there is evidence that integrating math apps and games into the learning approach helps build foundational math skills.
These digital aids include apps and games spanning different kind of mathematical thinking and different stages in the learning process, from introducing concepts to supporting practice or supplying simulation environments allowing for self-directed exploration and problem-solving. Many resort to elements of gamification, such as challenges, rewards – like points and badges – giving access to higher competence levels, etc.
Unfortunately, their effectiveness is quite uneven, with a few designed with the support of education experts and others created by software developers with little educational background. To make things worse, most offer no indication of their origin, leaving teachers and parents with little information on how to assess their quality.
These are some essential attributes to look for in a well-designed math learning app or game:
- It should deliver hints to help the student reach the answer or solution and offer a scaffolding to support the student’s reasoning, instead of conforming to a binary feedback of “right” or “wrong”.
- These hints should be progressive, offer encouragement and suggest that the correct answer is within reach – an important element avoid disengagement.
- The app should allow for students to start at different levels and to direct them to the appropriate level after pre-assessing them.
- The app should identify if and when the student is struggling with the subject and issue an alert to the teacher; ideally, it should grant access to the latter and keed a log of the student’s activities that the teacher can follow.
Source: Schwartz, S. (2020). “Digital Games and Apps: What Works and What Doesn’t?”, Education Week, December 2.