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ProdigyMathGameandProblemSolving

TheEffectivenessoftheProdigyMathGameinImprovingGradesixProblemSolvingin
Mathematics:AResearchProposal

ETEC50065B
UniversityofBritishColumbia
DavidMcMullan87369147

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Inthe20142015schoolyeartheTorontoCatholicDistrictSchoolBoard(T.C.D.S.B.)
hasintroducedProdigy,anadaptivemathskillroleplayinggametostudentsandteachers.
Currentlyteachersarestrugglingwithbalancingtheneedfordevelopingbasicmathskillswith
theunderstandingofconceptstoenablestudentstobesuccessfulintheirmathprogram.
AccordingtoneurologistandteacherJudyWillis,computergamesprovideanexcellentdelivery
modelforstudentlearning.Studentsenteralevelthroughpreassessment,receiveinstant
feedbackandpositivereinforcementaswellasscaffoldingwhenchallengesoccur(Willis,2011).
Oneofmyschool'sareasofneedasoutlinedinourschoolimprovementlearningplanis
applicationofmathknowledgethroughproblemsolving.AccordingtotheEducationand
QualityAccountabilityOffice(E.Q.A.O.),only54%ofOntarioGrade6studentsmettheOntario
provincialstandardinMathematicsstandardizedtesting(E.Q.A.O.,2014).OntarioGrade6
studentsappeartoexperiencethesamedifficultieswithproblemsolvingasstudentsatmy
school.IwouldliketoseewhethertheintroductionoftheProdigygamehashelpedimprove
ourstudentssuccesswiththeseproblems.


3.ProdigyMathGameandProblemSolving

Question1:
HoweffectiveistheProdigymathgametohelpimprovestudentsuccessinsolvingmath
problems?
TheprogramisalignedwiththeOntariocurriculum.theProdigyprogramallowsselectionof
questionstoloadtheprogramtobelinkedtotheE.Q.A.O.standardizedtestsinOntario.
Question2:
HoweffectiveistheProdigymathgameinhelpingstudentspreparefortheE.Q.A.O.
standardizedtests?
Question3:
HowdostudentsreadingcomprehensionskillsrelatetotheefficacyoftheProdigyMathGame?
LiteratureReview
Overthelast40years,computergameshavebecomeverypopularwithchildrentothe
extentthatwenowidentifythemasdigitalcitizens(Prensky,2001).Giventheirpopularity,
educatorshaveattemptedtointegratecomputergamesintotheclassroomtoincreasemotivation
andimproveachievement.However,earlyresearchintocomputergamesfocusedonthe
negativeperceptionsofcomputergamesasbeingviolent,genderstereotypedand
addictive(Boyleetal.2011).Althoughthispopularperceptionexistslargelydueto
commerciallyavailablegames,researchhasmovedtofocusingonhoweducationalgamescan
beusedeffectivelytofacilitatestudentlearning.Inthisliteraturereview,computergames
researchwillbeexaminedthatdealwiththeeffectivenessofgamesonmotivationand

4.ProdigyMathGameandProblemSolving

achievement,theefficacyoffeedbackonstudentmotivationandachievement,aswellasthe
importanceofcurriculumrelatednessintheadoptionofcomputergamesintotheclassroom.

MotivationandAchievement
Twomainareasofresearchfocusontheeffectthatcomputergameshaveonstudentsare
motivationandachievement.Moststudieswhichlookedatmotivationandachievementas
dependantvariablesindicatedthatcomputergameshadapositiveeffect(Kebritchietal.,2010).
However,Kebritchietal.foundthatmanyoftheempiricalstudieswereflawedinthatmanydid
nothavecontrolgroupsandfurtherthatasurveyofliteraturereviewscameupwithmixed
results(Kebritchietal,2010).Intheirownstudywhichexaminedtheeffectsofa3Dcomputer
gameonmotivationandachievementonhighschoolmathstudents,theresearchersfounda
significantimprovementinachievementbutnoimprovementinmotivation.However,according
tointerviewswithbothstudentsandteachers,bothgroupsreportedhighermotivationasaresult
ofplayingthegame.TheresearcherspositthattheHawthorneeffectmayhaveinfluencedthe
resultsascontrolgroupteacherstriedtomaketheirclassesmoreengagingtocompetewiththe
experimentalgroupusingthecomputergame(Kebritchietal,2010).
Inamorerecentstudy,Baietal.examinedthesamecomputergame(DimensionM)as
theKebritchietal.studybutinamiddleschoolcontextwithalargersamplefromalarger
geographicarea.Thestudyexploredtheeffectivenessofthe3Dcomputergameinimproving
studentachievementandincreasingstudentmotivationinmathematicslearning.Theresults

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indicatedthatthecomputerprogramimprovedstudentachievementinalgebraandsustained
studentmotivationinlearningmathematics(Baietal.2012).Theauthorsofthestudyconclude
thatcomputergamesareagoodsupplementtoamathematicsprogram.Theyfurtherindicate
duetotheincidentalnatureoflearningwithinthegamecontext,thatincidentallearninglikely
hadapositiveeffectonstudentoutcomes.
InastudybyFengfengKe,amixedmethodapproachwasusedtoexaminetheuseof
computersinasummermathematicsprogramfor4thand5thgraders.Keexaminedcognitive
mathachievement,metacognitiveawarenessandpositiveattitudestowardsmathlearning
(Ke,2008).Inthiscasestudytheresultsindicatedthatstudentsdevelopedpositiveattitudes
towardsmathlearningafterafiveweekprogramofmathgamelearning.Howevertheresults
indicatedthattherewerenopositiveeffectoncognitiveachievementormetacognitive
awareness(Ke,2008).Throughstudentreflectionontheprogram,Kesuggeststhatgamesshould
bedevelopedtosituateplayersinastoryinwhichtheytakeonchallengesandcanscaffold
reflections(ke,2008).
Inastudythatlookedattheeffectofgamebasedlearning(GBL)onmotivationinboth
studentsofhighandlowability,Kuetal.foundthatbothhighandlowabilitystudentsgained
significantimprovementintheirconfidencetowardsmathematicswhenengagedinGBLas
opposedtopencilandpaperlearning.Inaddition,thegreatestgainswereattainedbythose
studentsinthelowabilitygroup(Kuetal.,2013).Theauthorsofthestudyidentifiedgame
characteristicswhichfacilitatedstudentconfidence:specificgoals,variouslevelsofchallenge

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andimmediatefeedback.Specificgoalsgivestudentsasenseofaccomplishmentwhichleadsto
abuildingofconfidence.Thevariouslevelsofchallengeallowstudentswithdifferingabilityto
enterthegameattheirownlevel.Immediatefeedbackallowsstudentstolearnfromtheirerrors
andspursthemtoprogresstothenextlevel.(Kuetal.,2013).
Feedback
Relatedtomotivationandattitudestowardmathematicsisthetypeoffeedbackstudentsreceive
bothinregularclassroominstructionandalsoingamebasedlearning.VanEck,inhisstudyon
feedbackandcompetitioninacomputerbasedsimulationmathematicsgame,supportstheidea
thatfeedbackdecreasesanxietyamongstudentsespeciallywhencompetitionisinvolved.The
studyusedwhatVanEckcallscontextualpedagogicaladvisementtoprovidefeedbackduringa
simulationgame.Theresearchsuggeststhatstudentsseekingassistancethroughtextual
informationalonehavelessanxietyreductionthanstudentswhoreceiveassistancefromaperson
orpersona(VanEck,2006).
Receivingtimelyfeedbackplaysanimportantpartinstudentlearning.Computergamesare
uniquelypoisedtoprovideinstantaneousfeedbackwhichwouldseeminglybeaclearbenefitin
adoptingthemintotheclassroom(Prensky,2001).
However,accordingtoKickmeierRustetal.,afinebalanceneedstobecreatedbetween
gameinterestandprovidingmeaningfulfeedback(KickmeierRustetal.,2008).Intheirstudyon
individualizedfeedbackincomputergames,KickmeierRustetal.implementedatheoretical
frameworkofmicroadaptivitytoa3Dcomputeradventuregamedesignedtoteachphysicsto

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1214yearolds.Theresultsshowedthatmicroadaptivefeedback,appropriateandmeaningful
interventionforanindividuallearner,wassuperiortoneutral,nonindividualizedbutcorrect
feedback,andinappropriateinterventions,nonindividualizedandunsuitablefeedback.The
resultsalsoshowedthatmicroadaptivefeedbackfacilitatedlearning,positiveattitudeandgame
interest(KickmeierRustetal.,2008).

CurriculumAlignmentandTeacherImplementation
Ifintegratingcomputergamesintoformaleducationisseenasausefultoolforimproving
studentachievementandmotivation,whataretheimpedimentstowidespreadadoptionof
computersgamesintheclassroom?Inastudythatexaminedfactorsthatinhibitedteachersfrom
adoptingcomputergamesintotheclassroom,Baekfoundsixfactors.Theidentifiedfactors
were:adherencetothecurriculum,negativeeffectsofcomputergames,studentpreparedness,
limitedsupportingmaterials,schedulingissues,andbudgetaryconcerns(Baek,2008).This
studyfoundthatinflexibilityofthecurriculumasthegreatestfactorininhibitingtheadoptionof
computergamesintotheclassroom.Baekseesthealignmentofgamestocurriculaasaserious
issue(Baek,2008).
ThesameconclusionissupportedbyastudybyDeGroveetal,whoconcludedthat
curriculumrelatednessandteacherpreparednesswereimportantfactorsforsuccessful
integrationintoformalclassroomsettings.Theresearchersviewedthetwofactorsas
intertwined,asfamiliarizingteacherswithusingdigitalgameswillbemoreeasilyfacilitated
whenqualitycurriculumrelatedgamesareavailable(DeGroveetal,2012).

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Theresearchinthisreviewpointstotheeffectivenessoftheuseofcomputergamesin
improvingbothmotivationandachievementinmathematics.Researchalsosuggeststhattimely
andappropriatefeedbackgivenbycomputerprogramsiseffectiveinbothfacilitatinglearning
butalsoreducinganxietyamongstudents.Finallythatforcomputergamestobeeffectively
integratedintotheformalschoolsetting,teachersneedtoseeastrongalignmentwiththe
curriculum.
Theideasintheliteraturereviewrelatewelltothestudyproposedasimproved
motivationandachievementwouldbethedesiredoutcomesfortheschoolboardtomakea
programlikeProdigyavailabletotheschoolsystem.TheProdigycomputergameappearsto
meetmanyofthecriteria,(i.e.,theprovisionoffeedback)thatsuggeststhatstudentlearningwill
beimproved.InadditionthealignmentwiththeOntariocurriculum,withspecificquestionsfor
E.Q.A.O.standardizedtesting,willmaketheprogramattractivetoteachersandlikelyfurtherthe
programsimplementationintoschools.

ResearchMethod
Thestudywillbequantitativewithpreexperimentalstaticgroupcomparisonresearch.The
20132014studentcohortwillserveasthecontrolcomparisongroupastheProdigygamehad
yettobeintroducedatthattime.Theexperimentalcomparisongroupwillbethe20142015
studentcohort,whoarethefirstyearexposedtotheprogram.

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Participants

ParticipantsforthisstudywillbesixthgradestudentsfromSt.DunstanCatholicElementary
SchoolinalowincomeneighbourhoodinToronto,Ontario.Fiftystudentswillbeselectedfor
thisstudydividedintotwogroups,24studentsfromthe20132014yearand26studentsfrom
the20142015year.Studentsareselectedfromtwodifferentcohortsduetotheproblemthat
Prodigyisanonlinefreegamethatcanbeaccessedbyanyoneatanytime.Thereforethe
20132014yearcohortisacontrolforthestudyasthegamehadyettobeintroduced.Although
allstudentswillparticipateinthestudy,asubgroupofstudentswhomeetprovincialstandard
forreadingcomprehensionwillbeidentifiedthroughE.Q.A.O.standardizedtests.Theonly
studentswhowillbeexcludedfromparticipatingarethosewhoareexemptfromparticipatingin
theE.Q.A.O.standardizedtestsduetolackofparentalconsent.Asthe20132014cohortdidnot
haveaccesstothegame,ethicalconsiderationsaboutdeprivingparticipantsfromanequal
opportunitytodevelopmathematicsskillsarenotanissue.Althoughalldataisavailableto
teachersoftheschoolboard,parentalconsentwillbesoughtfromparentstousethedatainthe
study.Parentswillbeassuredofcompleteanonymityoftheirchildreninthestudy.

Materials
TheProdigymathgameisanadaptivemathfantasymultiplayerroleplayinggame.The
programadaptstoastudentslevelwithalearningalgorithmthatidentifiesknowledgegapsand
providesfeedbacktohelpstudentsprogress.Theprogramallowsteacherstomonitorstudent

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usageandprogresswhileidentifyingareaswherestudentsarestruggling.Theschoolboardset
upaccountsforeachstudentintheschoolandprovidedparentalletterstoassistthemwithaccess
athome.
StDunstansCatholicElementarySchoolisequippedwithacomputerlabof30desktop
computers.Inadditioneachclassroomisequippedwith3desktopcomputers.Classesalsohave
accessto20tablets,20chromebooks,13Ipads,and25notebooksthatteacherscanbooktouse
intheirclassroom.

Instruments
TheeffectivenessoftheProdigymathgamewillexaminedbytheuseofadatafromthe
E.Q.A.Ostandardizedtestfromtwocohorts.Studentsreadingcomprehensionleveldatawillbe
examinedfromtheE.Q.A.Oassessmentresultsaswell.TheE.Q.A.Odataisaccessedfromthe
T.C.D.S.B.sDataIntegrationPlatform(D.I.P.).ThedatafromtheProdigymathgamecanbe
accessedthroughtheclassroomteachersaccount.

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Procedure
ThestudywilltakeplaceatSt.DunstanCatholicSchool.Studentswillhavean
opportunitytoplaytheProdigymathgameatschoolduringtheircomputerlabtimeandduring
freetimeintheclassroom.Studentsarealsoencouragedtologontotheprogramathometo
play.ThroughtheclassroomteacherIwillhaveaccesstousagelogsandstudentprogress
reports.AnalysisoftheE.Q.A.O.datawillbeaccessedbymethroughtheDataIntegration
Platform.PermissionswillbesoughtfromtheArea8SuperintendentandtheSuperintendentof
CurriculumandAccountability,thePrincipalofSt.Dunstanandparentsorguardiansofthe
studentsbyme.

ResearchDesignandAnalysis
Thepreexperimentalstaticgroupcomparisonwasselectedastheresearchmethodasit
bestfitthecircumstancesoftheadoptionofthecomputerprogramtoourboard.Astheprogram
hasalreadyrolledouttoschoolsacrossourboard,thecontrolcomparisongroupwasselected
fromthepreviousschoolyearcohort.Selectingacontrolgroupfromthecurrentyearwasnotan
optionastheschoolboardhadalreadyenrolledallthestudents,whothereforehadaccesstothe
program.Thetwogroupscanbecomparedastheyaresimilarinsizeandcomposition.
Likewise,thestudentswouldhavehadthesameteacherandreceivedthesamemathematics

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curriculumandpreparationfortheE.Q.A.O.testing.Figure1.1and1.2givethecompositionof
theclassesbasedonprogramingforthestudents.
Figure1.1ControlComparisonGroup


Figure1.2TreatmentComparisonGroup

I.E.P.=IndividualEducationPlan,E.L.L.=EnglishLanguageLearner.

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ThedatawillbecollectedfromtheE.Q.A.Otestsinmathematicsandreading.Thedata
fromtheE.Q.A.Omathematicsscoreswillbeexaminedbasedonthewordproblemquestions
withintheassessment.Thereadingscoreswillbecollatedaccordingtowhetherthestudents
meettheprovincialstandard(levelthreeorfour)ornot.Thiswillallowanalysisofasubsetof
theexperimentalcomparisongroupforwhomcomprehensionofwordproblemsshouldnotbean
issue.TheE.Q.A.Oreadingdatamayalsoshedinformationonhowstudentswhodonotreadat
theprovincialleveldoonmathematicalwordproblemswithorwithoutthetreatmentofthe
Prodigymathgame.

Schedule
Dataanalysisof20132014cohortcanbeginoncepermissionhasbeenobtained.Thefinal
resultsoftheE.Q.A.O.resultswillbereleasedinSeptemberof2015.Finalanalysisofdatacan
beginaftertheseresultsarein.ThestudywillbecompletedbyendofDecember2015.
Discussion
ThefindingsofthisstudywillhelpvalidatetheintroductionoftheProdigymathprograminto
ourschoolandboardofeducation.Asteachersinstructionaldayispressedtomeetthe
demandsoftheprovincialcurriculum,theywillwanttoknowthattimespentonacomputer
programwillenhancestudentachievement.Asmentionedintheliteraturereview,alignment

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withthecurriculumisanimportantconsiderationforteacherintheadoptionofGBLintotheir
programs.Giventhatotherstudieshavefoundthatcomputerbasedlearningenhancesboth
achievementandmotivationinmathematics,thissuggeststhatthesameresultsmightbefound
withProdigy.
Anotherimplicationofthestudyistheeffectonmotivationonstudentswithlower
ability.TheKuetal.studysuggeststhatGBLhasapositiveeffectonmotivation.ThatProdigy
includesascaffoldingfeaturetohelpstudentswhoareexperiencingdifficulty,bothmotivation
andachievementwilllikelyimprove.
Thegameappearstomeetmanyofthecriteriathatservetoenhancelearning.According
toOBriensTaxonomyofEducationalGames,roleplayinggamesarethemostrobustin
meetinglearningoutcomes,educationalobjectivesandproblemsolvingtypes(OBrien,2010).
Ifstudentsmeetwithimprovedsuccessasaresultofusingthisgame,teachersmaybemore
predisposedtoincorporatingothergamesintotheirclassrooms.

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References

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Boyle,E.,Connolly,T.,&Hainey,T.,(2011).Theroleofpsychologyinunderstandingtheimpact
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DeGrove,F.,Bourgonjon,J.,&VanLooy,J.,(2012).Digitalgamesintheclassroom?
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