This study explored the use of video game construction as an aid to mathematical learning. The study began by evaluating five game-creation tools: AgentSheets, Game Maker, Greenfoot, NetLogo, and Scratch. All are capable of making games, but Game Maker is the only one expressly designed for the purpose of making games. A rubric for evaluating these tools was developed and applied, and a simple maze game was created using each tool. This process is detailed in Appendix A.
Subsequently, instructional sessions in which students used a subset of these tools were developed and conducted, along with matching pre- and post-assessments for each session. An iterative, design-based research methodology was used to evaluate the class format, curriculum, and assessment tools. The assessment data, the instructional designs, and a reflective journal informed each step of the process and provided evidence for the research conclusions.
Forty-six students, in three groups, participated in this study. The work of each group acted as one of the three iterations of the design-based research process.
The first iteration was conducted in a high school mathematics classroom. Students were tasked with completing a partially-constructed video game. Over two 90-minute class periods, students created programs based on their knowledge of mathematical functions.
The second iteration was conducted with middle school students in an after-school game design classroom. Students met for 25 hours over the course of five weeks. The students in this iteration designed and built their own video game.
These first two iterations acted as the foundation for the final iteration. This portion of the study was conducted as an after-school video game design course with focused mathematics challenges. Students met for a total of 16 hours (two hours once a week for eight weeks). In each meeting, students were introduced to mathematics concepts and applied them in game design challenges.
Analysis of the research data yielded evidence for the following findings: (1) Video games design contributes to increased student engagement with math concepts; (2) out of school time is an ideal setting for using video games to teach mathematics; (3) interventions should be structure around authentic video game design and focused mathematical design challenges; (4) students involved in this type of class showed improvements in their understanding of mathematical concepts such as plotting Cartesian coordinates, using negative numbers, finding functions from patterns, and shape translations.