Numbers and maths symbols

Stat attack: Playing maths games in lessons saw test scores increase by seven per cent

Games may be the secret to learning numbers based subjects like maths and economics, according to new research.

Many students say they struggle with subjects like economics and statistics, with 83 per cent of university courses in these subjects taught using a traditional lecturing approach.

However, new research has shown that by including games in the teaching of these subjects, student achievement and satisfaction can be significantly increased, with numbers of students failing their course cut significantly.

Joshua Fullard, Assistant Professor of Behavioural Science, who led the research, said: “This research backs up what we already know – that traditional lecturing is not the best approach for teaching, even in numbers-based subjects like economics or statistics.

“The effects of games on students are not small or limited to some people in the class. Applied across a college or university, the increased rates of student success would result in hundreds of students not failing, achieving higher grades and being more satisfied in their learning at the same time.

“This may be due to games being fun and thus encouraging problem solving among students.”

In the research, two groups of students went through their studies, with one incorporating games into their learning, while the other received traditional teaching only.

What are the benefits of playing maths games?

The study found that the group that included games achieved significantly better grades, with the average exam score up by seven per cent.

Overall, the median student in the group with the games achieved 69 per cent in their test as opposed to the median student in the other group who achieved 60 per cent – almost the difference between a 2:1 and a first in their degree.

The rate of failure for students who played different types of games was also lower, only seven per cent. In the other group, almost a fifth of students failed. This suggests that playing a game in maths benefits all the students in the class, even those who do not get a higher grade.

The students who used games also had a much higher rate of student satisfaction, as well as higher attendance to lectures and seminars.

One reason why more teachers and lecturers don’t use games in their teaching is due to time pressure they are under, with lots of ground to cover and only limited time to achieve this.

The new research, 'Using games to improve students' engagement and understanding of statistics in higher education' published in the Journal for Economic Educators, suggests several short, easy to implement activities to improve student learning without educators having to sacrifice hours of teaching time.

Further reading:

Why are male teacher numbers falling?

AI used to help disadvantaged Warwick students

Leaving essays to the last minute can ruin your grades

Using games to improve students' engagement and understanding of statistics in higher education


Joshua Fullard is Assistant Professor of Behavioural Science and teaches Big Data Analytics on MSc Management, MSc Business Analytics, MSc Business with Marketing, MSc Business with Operations Management and MSc International Business.

Learn more about behavioural science on the four-day Executive Education course Behavioural Science in the Real World at WBS London at The Shard.

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