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January 07, 2008

Can Video Games Teach Algebra?

Jill Stoddard
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At 11:30 one Friday morning, hundreds of middleschool kids in Lerner auditorium were screaming with excitement. On the giant video screen on stage, students’robot avatars armed with space-age immobilizers competed against one another in a 3D landscape.

But to win, players must answer algebra questions.

The video game, Meltdown, is being tested as a new way to teach math to middle schoolers, including pilot programs in some of the country’s biggest school systems, such as Miami, Chicago and New York.

“It's a paradigm shift in thinking about education,” said Ntiedo “NT” Etuk ’02, who is also cofounder, chairman and CEO of Tabula Digita, the maker of Meltdown. “I really believe that the reason kids are doing poorly is because what is happening outside the classroom is not being translated to what is happening inside the classroom.”

Preliminary results suggest that the game helps students’ standardized test scores, and that students in classes that use the game have better attendance and are more engaged in learning.

Comments

by Peter Lucash | January 16, 2008 at 11:04 AM

This sounds like the 21st century version of the MathBlaster series. My kids used those games for fun and practice when they were little. Peter Lucash '78

by Ben '90 | January 17, 2008 at 5:59 PM

Based on my daughter's affection for her Nintendo DS, my hope all those video games will improve her brain (Brainteaser), her French (French Coach) and vocabulary (Word Coach). It would be nice to know these addictive devices are more than just entertainment. Look at this generation of kids in our grade schools. They know CD's, DVD's, iPods, digital cameras, Wii's, laptops and mobile phones, where entertainment is readily available and fast. Their expectation for visual and auditory material is at a much higher level than when we were going to school. Poorly produced materials will lose their attention and bore them. So is there room for well produced, good quality educational material to heighten our kid's learning experience? Sure. My fear is that 1) there will be a lot of poorly produced educational materials that will waste time and money, and 2) it will take time and money away from the really critical problem of finding and producing good teachers who have a passion for teaching kids and who know how to adapt their lessons to help kids learn. A good teacher will have more impact than a video game or software program. If we can create an educational system that produces great, impassioned teachers that know how to incorporate new media and technology to enhance their teaching programs, I think we can change the world.

by Ram Peri | April 16, 2008 at 4:56 PM

This experiment seems to take the phrase "Make Learning Fun For Kids" literally. The idea behind this experiment seems to be very strong, I would be very interested to know if there was sustained interest from the kids. Baby Einstein seems to have been very successful with promoting toys that encourage children to think and be creative and needless to say very popular with parents too.

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