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IES Contract

Title: Game-Based Learning and Assessment Computer Applications with Direct Representations of Mathematics
Center: NCER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: Weiner, Randy Awardee: Brainquake
Program: Small Business Innovation Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (5/1/2016-4/31/2018) Award Amount: $900,000
Type: Phase II Development Award Number: EDIES16C0012

Phase II award

Project Website:

Video Demonstration of the Phase I Prototype:

Purpose: The team will fully develop and test three puzzle-based math games that adaptively assess and support student learning in middle school classrooms. A principle objective of middle school math is to prepare students for more complicated and advanced STEM topics, providing the foundation for a wide variety of college majors and careers. Students who struggle in math in grade 5 and 6 are more likely to show deficits as coursework turns to topics in algebra. However, in many classrooms, commonly used progress monitoring instruments often do not adjust in ease or difficulty based on student performance, and do not provide data teachers can use to tailor instruction to meet the needs of students.

Project Activities: During Phase I (completed in 2015), the team developed a prototype of an adaptive engine for Wuzzit Trouble, a previously developed app where players rotate a virtual wheel to solve puzzles by applying number sense mathematical strategies. The engine tailors gameplay to the skill level of individual students in real time, providing tips and support to students having difficultly or by making challenges more difficult for those who master puzzles. The research team conducted a pilot study at the end of Phase I in order to test the prototype. A little more than 200 grade 5 and 6 students and six teachers participated over two weeks. Researchers found that the prototype functioned as intended and that teachers successfully used the game before, during, and after class as a supplement to instruction. They learned that 65% of students enjoyed using the prototype and 46% indicated that the game adjusted to the right level of difficulty during gameplay. In Phase II, the team will develop two new games on topics including algebraic thinking and problem solving, will strengthen and validate the adaptive engine, and will build out the dashboard to report formative and summative assessment results. After development is complete, the researchers will carry out a larger pilot study to assess the usability and feasibility, fidelity of implementation, and promise of the three games to improve student learning over a 9-week period. Thirty-two grade 5 and 6 math classrooms from 16 schools will participate. One classroom from each school will be randomly assigned to use the games and half will continue with business-as-usual procedures. The researchers will compare pre-and-post scores for student learning on standardized measures of pre-algebra topics. They will also track teacher implementation.

Product: The final product will include a suite of three app-based puzzle games aligned to national math standards for number sense, algebraic thinking, and problem solving. The games will be designed for use in grade 5 and 6 classrooms where students develop and apply content expertise to solving challenges. The games will include an adaptive engine that assesses and adjusts content based on student level of performance, a back-end system to organize data, and a reporting dashboard to present measures of student performance, persistence, and creativity. The project team will also develop teacher resources for suggesting how to incorporate games and activities into classroom instructional practice to reinforce lesson plans and learning.