Gamification in Mathematics Education

In the fall of 2016, Harvard undergraduate Allen Lai studied the effectiveness of "gamification in an educational settings". It was both a reading project as well as a programming project. Allen read more in the literature and explored different ideas. He focused then onto one particular task, programming an actual game. Allen then wrote a short paper about that.

Paper draft [PDF].


Allen then tested his gaming idea in the course Math 21a. He wrote the game in Javascript. The game recorded the results. Allen analyzed the data. Allen also found some good literature. Like this book to the right:

Added Piday 2018

An experiment in using a game to tell the story of Archimedes: (added 3/14/2018 (PIDAY)):

Added February 2018



Education always was closely related to education. The scientific process is like a game. You explore new worlds. You battle problems, you bypass difficulties. A huge step in the process of gamification and gaming is the addition of the "Discovery Tour" for Assassin's Creed Origins" game. It was for me an excuse to buy the game and try it out. [Having "destroyed" several weeks of my time with "Myst" in 1994 while being a postdoc at Caltech and a summer early 2000 with "Wolfenstein", I don't play games any more.] The expansion pack is different. Yes the game itself requires to battle and hunt etc, the expansion pack allows a relaxed exploration of the world without having win a battle. To the right is a recording, I just did today. Below is the trailer This is great to make history come to life. It is just a taste what is possible in education. It could also bring excitement into math education, provided the content is added well. Math education (like many educational topics) are in great danger of suffer from "infantilisation". The trivial stuff like "slope" is explained as if students were idiots, the difficult stuff is then brushed over. The reason (I include myself in this critics) is that it is easy to score when explaining or visualizing something simple like a surface), while harder to explain why surface area does not depend on parametrization. So, one spends most of the time in the comfort zone, bringing a surface to class as if we are not all made of surfaces. An important question is now, whether computer games help with learning or whether they make things worse. Gaming is something perceived as "juvenile" by many because games are mostly played by the young. One forgets however that many great results in science came about by just playing around. We lose the ability to play because it is associated with "childish". I have followed the development of computer games in education since computers exist. We bought essentially all educational games there are. Some of them were quite good, others were terrible. Among smart phone apps, educational games in mathematics are still terrible in general. But there are educational games which are well done. I started to learn a bit of Spanish for example with a smart phone app (recommended to me by some student of mine) and I find it very effective.


The new addition brought much coverage in the media.