The Gateways to Algebraic Motivation, Engagement and Success (GAMES) project is designing digital games for middle school students that will help them prepare for success in Algebra. The games are intended to help students gain a deep understanding of measurement and fraction concepts that are critical as they begin to learn algebra. The design of the games is based on research on learning fractions and research on engagement. The researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University are studying students' development of fraction concepts, their engagement in the tasks, and the use of hand-held devices as a useful platform for games. They are providing valuable information on how students develop fraction concepts and contributing to the development of a learning trajectory that will guide the teaching of measurement and fraction concepts.
The design of the games is based on engagement states that are known to facilitate learning, with specific attention to cognitive, behavioral, and affective domains. The mathematical framework driving the games is based on how students learn fraction concepts. Most grade 6 students think of fractions from a part-whole conception, but this is not an adequate base for developing algebraic concepts. The games help students develop splitting concepts by moving through activities that focus on sequencing, partitioning, and iterating. The games are designed for iOS platforms that provide ease of engagement and data collection flexibility.
The project offers a variety of products ranging from theories to games. The research is building a conceptual framework that identifies features of engagement that lead to learning, and contributing to the development of a learning trajectory related to fraction concepts. The work will produce a scalable model for developing and using digital games to increase engagement and learning of middle school students. In addition, three games and associated tasks are being developed for use with current curricula to enhance students' understanding of fractions and prepare them for learning algebra.