Lee Moody, Web Developer

Panda Math

pandamath.co.uk

Through the development of a web based artefact, Panda Math, my 3rd year university project explored the affects of “gamification” and “game based learning” applied to e-learning applications.

Panda Math was built with three variations, one based on no game, one based on principles of “gamification”, and a third fully implemented game. Check them out in action on YouTube. Primary school children were invited to optionally use this learning tool after school, and were randomly assigned to one of the three variations upon registration. Quantitative usage statistics were gathered to inform the research.

It was found both game variations improved engagement and learning when compared to the non-game control group. “Gamification” did best in terms of the number of questions students completed, whilst the full game based learning variant retained users for longer periods of time. It also increased the accuracy of answers given by students more so than the “gamified” experience.

Development proved tough, especially for the third “full game” variation of Panda Math. I learnt about and implemented all sorts of cool stuff, including an A* path finding algorithm so the player can interact with chasers.

The whole thing works with JavaScript and JQuery by manipulating the DOM! Sure canvas or perhaps WebGL would have been more appropriate (canvas is on the to-learn list!), but it was pretty impressive to get it running as well as I did using “traditional” web methods - a testament to the speed modern browsers too. In fact, it worked well even on some older netbooks. Regrettably I had to pull support for tablets, as many at the time struggled to keep up and the user experience became sub-par. For example, the first generation iPad Mini could manage, but not its closest competitor. The research had to take priority so optimisations halted and the project moved forth.

After the largest game was built, along with the back-end infrastructure to manage participants and log data, things became much easier. The “gamified” and non-game variations were easy to build, especially as much functionality could be abstracted from previous work (such as the algorithms to generate questions based on student level).

Beyond technical challenges, I devoted a lot of time to learning the fundamentals of Illustrator and brushing up on Photoshop to create the various illustrations required from the project. This included the design of the website itself, the game map, and unlock-able game achievements.

In the near four week data gathering period 57 users registered, 992 minutes were spent by students actively engaged in math, and 5,161 mental math problems were solved correctly.

The three schools who got involved were fantastic and very helpful, I can not thank them enough: Nettleham Primary, Westgate Acadamy, & Birklands Junior.

Panda Math was a fun, challenging, and insightful project. I hope for others like it in the future.