We have partnered with scientists from the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington to conduct an experiment in order to answer the following question:
Can all K-12 students master basic algebra with game-based learning, in a short time?
Large scale week-long “Algebra Challenges” events have been conducted in Washington State and Norway. We call these events MILEs, for Massive Interactive Learning Events. 40 302 students participated, and played an adaptive version of DragonBox Algebra 5+, with their classmates and teachers. Using the adaptive version of DragonBox Algebra developed by the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington, students in each Algebra Challenge had a collective goal: solve hundreds of thousands of equations. Students played at school, with their classmates and teachers, as part of their regular school time. They also had the possibility to access their game account at home if they wanted to play more.
We hope the results of these MILEs will inspire teachers, game creators, scientists, and decision-makers in education. Individualized learning through adaptive game-based methods is already a reality, and it can have a huge impact on how our kids are learning many subjects beyond algebra or maths. Here is what Zoran Popovic, director of the Center for Game Science, had to say when he presented the results from the Algebra Challenges at the Games for Change conference.
This report, entitled “Learning basic Algebra by playing 1.5h – What the 40 000 students who participated in the DragonBox Algebra Challenges demonstrate”, details 5 main findings from this study:
1) 93% of kids who played at least one hour and a half learned basic Algebra
93% of all students who played at least 1.5h learned successfully how to solve basic equation, when traditional methods require dozens of hours, with lower final success rates.
2) A large majority of 3rd graders can learn Algebra
80% of 3rd graders on average can learn what is usually considered material for late middle school (8th grade) and high school, with much improved success rates.
3) (Really) no child left behind
Pupils who can’t learn with the average amount of material available are usually left behind, as we discovered they require on average 5 times more educational material to learn, and teachers can’t simultaneously teach each student individually. Adaptive learning allows each student to access specifically the material they need, when they need it.
4) Homework happens naturally
In Norway, 43% of the play/learning time was at home, with the students choosing to play without being assigned homework. Motivation is key in learning, especially for students who need to spend more time learning a given subject that their classmates. Media coverage also helped project a “cool” image for the MILE (Massive Interactive Learning Event), making learning algebra cool by association.
5) Built-in formative assessments
Formative assessments are essential to an efficient learning process, and are built into the game. Adaptivity means that each assessment is directly used to provide the learner with an adequate learning progression. 471,714 formative assessments were administered during the DragonBox Algebra Challenge in Norway.