The idea that playing video games can assist children’s mathematical education may be the last thing some parents want to hear or believe. However, there has been much research over the years proving playing games does have some benefits.
Studies have consistently shown that, in moderation, playing video games can reduce reaction times, improve hand-eye coordination and raise self-esteem. On top of this, there is growing evidence video games have educational potential, improving cognitive performance and stimulating motivation and participation in learning. Some researchers even suggest kids who play video games improve in planning, organisation, and flexible thinking.
Video games provide challenges that children can learn to overcome by applying core mathematical processes like logic and reasoning, visualisation and problem-solving. They present problems in which children must use appropriate strategies and calculations to find solutions and make decisions – consciously or subconsciously, and often at a moment’s notice. Some video games can also effectively teach children about another core aspect of maths, chance and the potential risks of gambling.
It is important to note that certain types and genres of video games can have varying educational values. Some commercial video games may even contain elements of mathematical processes. Throughout the Super Mario games, players must use logic and reasoning and visualisation to execute timed and distanced jumps over many sets of obstacles, increasing in difficulty as the game progresses. Problem-solving is core to city builder video games like Cities: Skylines, which requires players to strategically engage in urban planning (zoning, road placement, taxation, public services etc) and maintain various elements of a city, including its budget, health, employment, and pollution levels. In saying this, many commercial video games are made purely for entertainment, so there are limitations to an educational classification. A video game about solving puzzles or mysteries will intellectually challenge and stimulate a player more than a violent shooter – which unfortunately won’t teach numeracy beyond body counts.
Video games can make learning maths, more fun, interactive and engaging and even enhance feelings of achievement through virtual reward. They can be especially effective for teaching children who struggle with or aren’t very invested in learning maths. Children with disabilities may also greatly benefit.
According to Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies in the Psychology Division, Nottingham Trent University – “Video games have great positive potential in addition to their entertainment value and there has been considerable success when games are designed to address a specific problem or to teach a certain skill”.
Interestingly, what many don’t know or realise is that maths is core to video game development. Maths is central to all their mechanics and design, like character modelling and map/level design. The essence of video games is mathematical, which should be reason enough to prove its suitability to maths education.
At ORIGO Education, we believe games and practical applications help to cement maths concepts and skills. Students who develop strong thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills grow into productive, innovative members of society. We believe technology empowers rather than replaces educators, and we invite you to join our community to access our ever-growing library of articles, classroom activities, videos, webinars, professional learning, and endless inspiration for making maths your favourite subject!
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are in no way inferring that video games are a substitute for traditional maths education. However, they are effective for reviewing and practising learnt maths knowledge.