By Brandon Koebel
2015 EQAO data indicates that Ontario’s current math strategy is not working. Only 35% of students in the Applied Stream agree that they like mathematics, and 21% say that math is their favourite subject (EQAO, 2015).
The traditional math classroom can be summarized using a simple recipe:
- Teacher-centred lesson
This repetitive cycle has resulted in disengagement, a lack of interest, and negative feelings about math education. Game-based learning may make mathematics a more engaging process.
A New Generation
With technology integrated into every aspect of modern-society, educational practices must evolve to remain current and relevant to students in the 21st century. This sentiment is captured perfectly in a 2010 study by The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership: “Teachers who use technology frequently to support learning in their classrooms report greater benefits to student learning, engagement and skills from technology than teachers who spend less time using technology to support learning” (Walden University, 2010). Why not use technology to build an engaging, learner-focused approach to math instruction?
Game-based is an interesting possibility. Here are two examples you may wish to consider in your math classroom:
Knowledgehook is an online mathematics platform first released in 2013. Its premise was simple, “Education would be enhanced through gamification because students would want to join in and have fun while learning” (Moreira, 2015). The program can be accessed on any mobile device with an internet browser, making it easy to incorporate in schools operating on a BYOD policy. Knowledgehook’s user-friendly interface based on the Ontario Mathematics Curriculum provides educators with an easy-to-integrate platform that increases engagement, provides instant student and teacher feedback, and provides students the opportunity to practice skills outside of class. Students participate in collaborative blended-learning through a game show-style competition featuring a leaderboard and achievement badges.
Prodigy is an online platform that captures student interest through its video-game design. The program incorporates the curriculum, and allows students to work on differentiated tasks at their own pace. Prodigy includes lesson content, formative feedback and assessment tools.
Should everything be a game?
Opponents to the recent inquiry-based math approach suggest that a more “back to basics” math strategy will produce better student learning and retention. Perhaps our attraction to game-based learning, technology-enabled learning, and inquiry have derailed mathematics. Anna Stokke, an associate professor at the University of Winnipeg, states “tackling math instruction through direct learning may be more repetitive, but ultimately more successful. When information in our working memory is sufficiently practised, it is then committed to long-term memory, after which it may be recalled later.” (The Canadian Press, 2015).
No. It doesn’t make sense for every aspect of every day to be game-based. However, game-based learning has shown positive results. Supporters of the game-based learning movement identify positive outcomes including, “increased engagement and motivation and…social learning” (Christy & Fox, 2014).
Christy, K. & Fox, J. (2014). Leaderboards in a virtual classroom: A test of stereotype threat and social comparison explanations for women’s math performance. Computers & Education, 78, 66-77. Retrieved from
Moreira, P. (2015). Knowlegehook Nears New Funding. Retrieved from
The Canadian Press. (2015). Canada’s math teachers should get back to basics, report says. The Canadian Press.
The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership (2010). Educators, Technology and 21st Century Skills: Dispelling Five Myths. Retrieved from