Videogames: A tool for teaching

11 months ago

Did you know you can learn Maths, Science and History thanks to videogames? We’ll tell you how you can use them for teaching.

“Any object with a mass exerts gravitational pull over any other object with mass”. This is Isaac Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation, and curiously enough, it’s applied on every Angry Birds game. Indeed, videogames are not only leisure tools that help you relax from a hard day at work or at school, they can also serve as a teaching method. 

Venezuelan professor José Carmona noticed the potential of videogames to teach maths, physics and other school subjects in 2010, and created the teaching method called “Interactive Maths”. The goal is for children to learn maths playing videogames and using social networks. Everything started with the Wii, which he uses for PE class, and so videogames proved to be a great motivation unlike other teaching methods.

This young Venezuelan teaches Maths and Physics thanks to EA SportsFIFA, since physical data such as speed, time and distance are present in football videogames. He also uses this game to explain Statistics, because the students have to change players depending on their capacity, precision or speed. Carmona explains that it’s a way for the students to “make deductions and logic reasonings”, and that this way, they learn to control the game with percentages and statistics. Other games like Need for Speed show them other Laws of Physics, such as linear movement to calculate the distance the car is driving.

A year before the creation of this method by the Venezuelan professor, two Spanish Universities (the Universidad de Alcalá and the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia) did a research in collaboration with Electronic Arts (EA), in which they claimed that thanks to the use of videogames, learning is more exciting and that they also help to motivate and integrate the students.

Experts at the also Spanish Universidad de Huelva declare in an article published in Computers & Education that videogames are useful for Social Science and that they’ve also become a source of information. Specifically, they talk about how beneficial games like Age of EmpiresCaesarEmpire Earth or Sim City are to learn about History, Politics, Geography, Urbanism, Economy or the Environment. All in all, they’re strategy, adventure and simulation games in which the player will be confronted with having to solve a problem or situation.

This is why in the last few years, a series of educational videogames have been developed. They’re called serious games and their goal is to educate their players. Jean Baptiste Huynh, engineer and maths professor, developed the game DragonBox when he saw that despite all his efforts to gets his students’ attention, they were bored in class. Since 2012, his game has managed to motivate five year old children to learn maths. “Videogames have important values that are necessary for tutorials, pedagogy and persistence, explains the DragonBox creator.

In Twelve a dozen, the player becomes the number 12 and has to save the city of Dozenopolis from the threat of the Ultimate Prime Number adding, subtracting and doing other math problems and puzzles. This game by Bossa Studios, in collaboration with educational company Amplify, brings children between eleven and fourteen years into an imaginary world inside a calculator—a world full of numbers, which the player has to save from the danger they’re in.

And the fans of World of Warcraft surely will like to know that a US Physics professor called Shawn Young created an RPG game in 2013 to use it as teaching method for his students. Classcraft is the game he developed together with his brother Devin y and his father Lauren as a tool for teachers and a motivation for his students. It helps the students to work in teams and behave properly, since whether they gain or lose XP or HP depends on that. Their attitude can be an advantage or a disadvantage for their teammates. Every team has warriors, mages and healers and every character has special powers that are used to help their teammates and get good marks. Classcraft tries to turn the lesson into a roleplay and the teacher into the Game Master, motivating the students to get involved and participate.

Videogames satisfy three basic needs: the wish to be independent, the need to reach goals and the necessity to interact. Those three factors are essential in a classroom so that the student has a positive development. This is why experts at the Spanish Universidad Internacional de la Rioja (UNIR) put together a list of videogames that aren’t necessarily serious games, but promote learning. The iconic Minecraft is one of them, and now there is even a platform called Minecraft Edu to show the teaching staff how to integrate this game in the classrooms.

The benefits of gamification are essential for children’s education and growth, and even for adults, too. On UNIR’s list we can also find games such as Assassin’s Creed, which has a very detailed, historical environment, or Fallout 4, as it motivates decision-making and their long-term consequences. For Begoña Gros, tenured professor at the Pedagogy Faculty in the Spanish Universidad de Barcelona, videogames are now a big part of “a child’s socializing process”, and adults don’t value this very important aspect of a child’s life enough. According to her, they’re being educated “informally” in the Information Society, but not “formally” because neither the schools nor their parents acknowledge this process.

There’s still a long way to go until videogames are finally implemented in the classrooms, but for now, kids and adults alike can keep learning through classic videogames—and through new ones, too. This is the case of Math Max, a maths video game that tests your concentration and reaction capacity while under pressure.

Article written by Paula Gil Alonso.



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