GAME DESIGN OF A VIDEO GAME ON FRACTIONS CONCEPT LEARNING IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENTS
In a recent study, we (Cyr et al., 2015) assessed the learning impact on various fractions concepts of the game "Slice Fractions" (developed by the company Ululab; http://ululab.com) on third grade primary school Canadian students (8-9 years). Learning outcomes were assessed using selected items involving fractions from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. Results showed that pupils who used the game learned as much as those who were taught with a magisterial approach. Moreover, we also observed that subjects had also shown transfer of learning to more abstract elements of fractions that were not directly targeted by the game.
In recent years, fractions were at the heart of many serious video game (Aslan, 2011; Lee, 2010; Lee and Shanks, 2008; Nejem and Muhamma, 2013; Riconscente, 2012). Studies on these games indicated their potential for teaching fractions, as well as some of their limits. First, their structures are based on the premise that students already had prior knowledge of fractions. Even when a visual representation of fractions is available (Aslan, 2011; Lee, 2010), the symbolism is present from the beginning of the game. Thus, none of these games allow for students without prior knowledge of fractions, to understand them intuitively and to transition to a more abstract understanding through virtual manipulatives.
The game “Slice Fractions” was designed to help students to make the transition from an intuitive to a more abstract understanding of fractions and relies on the virtual manipulative of fractions to do so. The game is based on the two most often used meanings of fractions, namely fractions as “numbers” and fractions as “a relation between the part and the whole”. Also, the visual and dynamic approach undertaken by “Slice Fractions” allows students to directly manipulate certain concepts, which is not possible with school books where everything is static.
Furthermore, the game respects the model of Bergeron and Hescovics (1980). The first levels develop an intuitive understanding of fractions, before gradually becoming more abstract. As such, the symbolic representation of fractions is only introduced later in the game. In addition to these aspects, the game respects the methodological framework of educational game based learning design based on six key elements described by Prensky (2001): history, rules, goals and objectives, results and feedback, conflict-challenges and interactions. It was also designed based on a conceptual analysis of the fraction concept, an analysis of textbooks of primary school, the relationship between the game and the program (Quebec program and the Common Core State of US Standards) and learning objectives (Nejem and Muhann, 2013). To illustrate the operation of the game and the nature of its progression, we selected 6 levels taken at different times of the game.
The development of this game took place over a period of 2 years. It involved the collaboration between university researchers and specialists in the design of educational video games. A pre-expérimentaiton and pilot study were performed to identify the elements of the game to improve.
The purpose of this paper is to present the methodology for developing the video game Slice Fractions and discuss educational features of the game and its impact on student learning.