Facilitating the acquisition of arithmetic skills with a computer game
Global Science and Technology Forum
Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Psychology and Social Science / Cognition Research Group
A theory is proposed to explain the poor numeracy rates within Australia. The theory suggests that the education system does not adhere closely enough to known principles of skill acquisition. The theory provided a rationale for the development of a computer game designed to facilitate the acquisition of arithmetic skills in children. The full version of the game possessed three separate elements designed to encourage faster retrieval of arithmetic facts. A limited version of the game was also developed with only one of these features. The paper reports the results of an experiment that compared performance on standard arithmetic problems following the playing of either version of the game with that observed following two control conditions: 1. Normal classroom lessons; 2. Arithmetic problems performed on a computer. The accuracy of performance on the standard arithmetic problems improved in all conditions at an equivalent rate, reflecting a general practice effect. The speed of performance on these problems became slower in all conditions except following play of the limited version of the game, where speed increased. This far transfer from a game task to standard arithmetic problems was interpreted as support for the proposal that appropriately designed educational games can facilitate the acquisition of arithmetic skills. Some limitations of the study are discussed and recommendations are made that could improve the effectiveness of the full version of the game.