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Study shows 15% improvement in 5th grader’s fractions test scores after playing iPad Motion Math game for a week

by Kelly Walsh on December 21, 2011


Can Education Technology improve learning outcomes? In this case, the methodically researched answer is “Yes”.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way first – this is a vendor sponsored study. However, while I am no expert on the conduct of studies, when I look over the published study, it looks quite rigorous to me. These study results make a solid case for the potential benefits of using this app in an educational context.

Questions being investigated in the study
Researchers went into this effort with the goal of seeking answers, using valid study methodologies, to these three questions:

  1. Does playing Motion Math lead to increases in students’ fractions knowledge?
  2. Does playing Motion Math lead to more positive attitudes toward fractions?
  3. Do students develop positive attitudes toward the Motion Math game itself?

Some notes about methodology
Study participants consisted of 122 fifth graders enrolled in two schools in southern California. Following is a table from the study that provides a summary overview of the student groups that participated.

The study used a “repeated measures crossover” design. At each school, one class was randomly assigned to either Motion Math or regular instruction for the first week. In week two, the order switched. All participants took the test three times (at the start, midpoint, and end of the study period).

Participating teachers at both schools refrained from teaching topics directly related to fractions during the study period, since the purpose of the study was to determine whether the game is effective as a stand-alone instructional tool,not to compare game play to classroom instruction.

Thorough coverage of the methodologies and procedures used in the study and available in the report.

Key Findings
Select results (taken directly from the Executive Summary section of the report):

  • Students’ fractions test scores improved an average of over 15% after playing Motion Math for 20 minutes daily over a five-day period, representing a significant increase compared to a control group.
  • Students’ self-efficacy for fractions, as well as their liking of fractions, each improved an average of 10%, representing a statistically significant increase compared to a control group.
  • Virtually all students rated Motion Math as fun and reported wanting to play it again; nearly all (95%) students in the study reported that their friends would like the game, and that the game helped them learn fractions.

These study results are quite encouraging – I only wish more vendors (and independent analysts) would sponsor studies like this. So many teachers and technologists are confident that tech tools like the iPad can add an element of engagement and fun to instruction, and raise the bar on outcomes, but empirical evidence like this makes the case clear cut. Thanks to the folks at GamesDesk for sharing the study with us!

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Collecting studies focused on the impact of Education Technologies
iPads In Education – How’s It Going So Far?
Succeeding With Reverse Instruction – One Instructor’s Inspired Approach


Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer at The College of Westchester, in White Plains, NY, where he also teaches. In 2009, Walsh founded As an education and instructional technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, regularly running Flipped Class Workshops online. His eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book is available here. Kelly also writes, records, and performs original music ... stop by and have a listen!

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own, or those of other writers, and not those of my employer. - K. Walsh]

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