Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 538–548 | Cite as

Experience and Explanation: Using Videogames to Prepare Students for Formal Instruction in Statistics



Well-designed digital games can deliver powerful experiences that are difficult to provide through traditional instruction, while traditional instruction can deliver formal explanations that are not a natural fit for gameplay. Combined, they can accomplish more than either can alone. An experiment tested this claim using the topic of statistics, where people’s everyday experiences often conflict with normative statistical theories and a videogame might provide an alternate set of experiences for students to draw upon. The research used a game called Stats Invaders!, a variant of the classic videogame Space Invaders. In Stats Invaders!, the locations of descending alien invaders follow probability distributions, and players need to infer the shape of the distributions to play well. The experiment tested whether the game developed participants’ intuitions about the structure of random events and thereby prepared them for future learning from a subsequent written passage on probability distributions. Community-college students who played the game and then read the passage learned more than participants who only read the passage.


Computer games Statistics instruction Assessment Interactive learning environments 



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (Grant No. SBE-0354453) and the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Initiative. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundations. The authors thank Don O’Brien for helping with the programming of Stats Invaders! and the best interface touches.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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