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Digital Games and Mathematics Learning

Tom Lowrie and Robyn Jorgensen (Zevenbergen), editors
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
Mathematics Education in the Digital Era
[Reviewed by
Adam Graham-Squire
, on

As digital games have become ubiquitous in our daily lives, more and more often they are being used as tools for learning. In the mathematics classroom, in particular, many claim that games show great promise to motivate and encourage students in a low-stakes environment. On the other hand, some worry that the digital interface discourages deep mathematical learning, because it lends itself most effectively to applications that emphasize rote learning. As the use of computers and technology becomes more prevalent in the classroom, many mathematics educators are left wondering if, when, and how they should use digital games in their classrooms.

Digital Games and Mathematics Learning is a collection of articles by a number of researchers addressing these questions and their underlying issues. One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the wide variety of approaches taken to investigate the use of digital games in the mathematics classroom. The authors hail from around the world and research everything from Mathematics to Computer Science to Teacher Education. Their different backgrounds illuminate their different approaches, which include: an investigation into how learning is affected when a Sesame Street episode is made digitally interactive, a discussion of the psychology behind the construction of learning environments in games, whether or not digital games are decreasing (or widening) the equity gaps between urban and rural students, and a meditation on how bringing games into the classroom might undermine the learning that occurs when the games are played outside of the classroom, among many others.

A particular salient chapter analyzes whether or not apps can support mathematical knowledge building, and if so, which ones do it best. The author investigated apps through different quantitative models, giving scores to apps based on, for example, their intellectual quality, supportive environment, and connectedness. He concludes that although the majority of mathematics apps are not of high quality, there are some which stand out in their ability to emphasize deep learning and that could be effectively used for mathematics learning.

Overall, this book is most useful for people interested in researching how digital games relate to the mathematics classroom. For the casual reader, some of the material is quite dry, using terminology and referencing studies that may not be familiar. That said, there is still much to interest anyone intrigued by games, in particular investigations of the mathematical aspects of many common games such as Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, and The Legend of Zelda. For the mathematics educator, the book is useful in the way it illustrates the benefits that gamification can lead to in the classroom. Whether we utilize digital games in our classroom or not, understanding what makes games effective learning environments can teach us about what drives student engagement in general.

Adam Graham-Squire is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at High Point University in High Point, North Carolina. His research interests include voting theory, recreational mathematics, algebraic geometry, and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Email at