A Gaming Perspective on Mathematics Education

A Gaming Perspective on Mathematics Education

Su-Ting Yong, Peter Gates, Andy Tak-Yee Chan
DOI: 10.4018/IJICTE.2018100106
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This article explores how motivation in computer games could be integrated into mathematics education. The scope of the study was confined to four motivation dimensions, namely challenge, control, complexity and collaboration. A phenomenology study was conducted with the purpose to obtain a common understanding of nine teachers and 11 students about mathematics education, particularly focusing on teaching practices and learning difficulties in mathematical problem-solving. Qualitative interviews have revealed that the existing mathematics education is built on drill-and-practice approach with Polya's problem-solving technique, i.e. exam-oriented, rote memorization and the use of predefined strategies. This approach to learning has failed to motivate students to learn (affective) and failed to develop an understanding and creativity (cognitive/metacognitive). Looking from a gaming perspective, mathematics problems should be challenging and complex, and students should be given control to carry out a plan. And finally, collaboration should be encouraged to enable reflective learning.
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In Asian countries, mathematics has been taught using a didactic method. It is primarily in the form of drill-and-practice and repetition of instructions (Li, 2006). Mathematics is exciting and challenging. Yet, many children find it dull and boring. Children tend to be negative, less motivated towards mathematics and not confident in solving complex and challenging mathematical problems (Awanta, 2009; Kislenko, 2006). Despite this, children are drawn to and able to solve sophisticated problems in computer games (Papert, 1998; Prensky, 2001). It is really impressive to see children as young as seven to play complicated games, e.g. Yu-Gi-Oh that involves complex language, vocabulary, and thinking skills (Gee, 2008). Computer games could motivate children to learn and go through consecutively more challenging tasks in the games, voluntarily and successfully. It would be interesting to look at how these games engage children in addressing various problems, and how these motivations could be incorporated into mathematics education.

The research question addressed in this study was: how mathematics education could be improved by understanding the motivation of gaming? Three operational research questions were derived to govern the research process:

  • 1.

    What were teachers’ perceptions and teaching practices in mathematics education?

  • 2.

    What were students’ perceptions and learning difficulties in mathematics education?

  • 3.

    How mathematical problem-solving was related to the motivation in computer games?

In this study, data about gaming was drawn from the literature so no experiment was conducted in this area. Firstly, a review of the literature was conducted to understand mathematical problem-solving and motivation in computer games. Then, qualitative interviews were conducted to understand the existing mathematics education in schools. Finally, the author tried to compare and integrate the game motivation into every stage of mathematical problem-solving.

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