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Adaptive Game-Based Platform Helps Students Master Concepts in Algebra Challenge

The University of Washington's Center for Game Science (CGS) has been testing an adaptive game-based platform that is showing promise in promoting mastery of algebra concepts among students in grades K-12.

"During the 'Washington State Algebra Challenge,' a one-week event that introduced algebraic concepts to students" via the platform, "students achieved an average mastery rate of 93 percent after only 1.5 hours of participation," according to a news release.

The challenge, which saw participants from 70 schools representing 15 districts, focused on 7th grade concepts.

"One of the biggest outcomes from the Washington State Algebra Challenge was the fact that mastery of linear equation-solving was reached in 1.5 hours, not just by higher grades, but even in elementary school," said Zoran Popović, director of the CGS and founder and chief scientist at Engaged Learning, in a prepared statement. "More importantly, this mastery was achieved by practically the entire classroom, as opposed to just a few students. This is shockingly good, but we think we can do even better."

The platform uses real-time classroom data to continuously identify and refine "personalized pathways through digital courseware, games and other learning tools —‚ pathways that optimize both engagement and mastery for each learner, as well as best outcomes for teachers and classrooms as a whole," according to information released by CGS.

Additionally, the platform can use any paper or digital courseware to create a parametric version capable of producing new problems within the confines of the original assignment, rather than just re-sequencing content already present.

"In addition to creating and optimizing pathways for student learning, the platform recommends teacher interventions, instructional strategies and pivots and other elements of the ecosystem that have been shown to be successful in similar classroom situations," according to a news release. "As a self-adaptive system, the platform's adaptation improves with each additional teaching and learning experience captured. And, as the platform continuously and automatically adapts based on real-time data, it accelerates the potential rate and degree of engagement and mastery in every learning opportunity."

Similar challenges have also been held in Norway, where more than 42 percent of student work took place outside the classroom and nearly 8 million equations were solved in five days, and Minnesota, with better results.

"A unique methodology behind the game automatically used data from previous challenges to further improve outcomes for new learners," said Popović, in a prepared statement. "In the Minnesota challenge, for example, the game figured out how to increase the mastery percentage over Washington and Norway by an extra 1.5 percent. We may get even closer to 100 percent than we thought possible. We look forward to the outcomes in the Brazil Algebra Challenge, perhaps the largest K-12 intervention ever conducted, with potentially 42 million students participating."

The platform was developed in a partnership between CGS and Engaged Learning with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation.

More information about CGS is available at Visit to learn more about Engaged Learning.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].