Gaming Helps Struggling Students Learn


Greg Toppo discussed his new book, The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter, on the popular Diane Rheme Show (NPR, Washington, D.C.). The book describes the many ways gaming can help children learn—especially when they are struggling with a subject.


Gaming engages students, meeting them where they are, by using a medium they are familiar with and content that interests them. Toppo describes students at an underperforming elementary school in D.C. who, once they were introduced to a math video game that utilizes a penguin mascot to lead the activities, improved in their math performance. He argues that from the outset, the game’s exciting, yet non-threatening environment, contributed to student success.


Toppo argues that, “nobody approaches a video game thinking, “No, this isn’t going to work.” In contrast, students often are hesitant about approaching an entire subject, such as math, because they doubt their ability. A key feature of the best educational video games is their ability to motivate and encourage persistence on tasks, with the promise of likely success. Toppo writes these games, “Don’t reward casual effort, mindless repetition or rat-in-a-cage responses. Instead they reward practice, persistence, and risk-taking.” The game, ST Math—where the penguin mascot mentioned earlier comes from—is an excellent example of this model.


PowerUp What Works can help you introduce gaming into your classroom by pairing the tools of digital play with evidence-based teaching strategies and tech tips. Check out our brand-new lesson plans on OpenEd, which integrate online educational resources, including video games, with PowerUp’s teacher support materials. Discuss with colleagues how you can integrate video games in to the PowerUp playlists. Let us know how you’ve used PowerUp to facilitate digital play in your classroom, by commenting below!

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