Design matters: explorations of content and design in fraction games

  • Melissa Sommerfeld GresalfiEmail author
  • Bethany Rittle-Johnson
  • Abbey Loehr
  • Isaac Nichols
Research Article


The goal of the current study was to contribute to our emergent understanding of whether and how particular types of digital games can support student learning and engagement. We focused on commercially available educational apps that focused on similar content (fraction comparison and equivalence) but represented extremes in how game-like they were (games vs. worksheets). Third-grade students (n = 95) worked on the apps for an hour in their math classrooms. Students preformed equally well on a paper-and-pencil assessment, but students’ enjoyment of the games was significantly higher. Student interviews indicated that students who played the games noticed the mathematics content in the games, sometimes linking it to the game mechanics, noticed the relevance of the game for the assessment and talked about enjoying the games. Findings suggest that exploratory games that implicitly support mathematics knowledge can improve students’ math knowledge outside of the game context and improve student engagement.


Design Games Mathematics education Elementary Mixed methods 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest with the work presented in this paper.


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Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

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