Evaluating Game-Based Learning Environments for Enhancing Motivation in Mathematics

  • Jon R. StarEmail author
  • Jason A. Chen
  • Megan W. Taylor
  • Kelley Durkin
  • Chris Dede
  • Theodore Chao
Part of the Advances in Game-Based Learning book series (AGBL)


During the middle school years, students frequently show significant declines in motivation toward school in general and mathematics in particular. One way in which researchers have sought to spark students’ interests and build their sense of competence in mathematics and in STEM more generally is through the use of game-based learning environments. Yet evidence regarding the motivational effectiveness of this approach is mixed. Here, we evaluate the impact of three brief game-based technology activities on students’ short-term motivation in math. A total number of 16,789 fifth to eighth grade students and their teachers in one large school district were randomly assigned to three different game-based technology activities, each representing a different framework for motivation and engagement and all designed around an exemplary lesson related to algebraic reasoning. We investigated the relationship between specific game-based technology activities that embody various motivational constructs and students’ engagement in mathematics and perceived competence in pursuing STEM careers. Results indicate that the effect of each game-based technology activities on students’ motivation was quite modest. However, these effects were modified by students’ grade level and not by their demographic variables. In addition, teacher-level variables did not have an effect on student outcomes.


STEM education Motivation Algebraic reasoning Self-efficacy Implicit theories of ability 



The research was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (DRL #0929575) to Chris Dede and Jon R. Star. The ideas in this chapter are those of the authors and do not represent official positions of the National Science Foundation.

Portions of this chapter were adapted from: Star, J. R., Chen, J., Taylor, M., Durkin, K., Dede, C., & Chao, T. (2014). Evaluating technology-based strategies for enhancing motivation in mathematics. International Journal of STEM Education, 1:7. doi:  10.1186/2196-7822-1-7.

Thanks to Adam Seldow, Greg Jastrzemski, and the faculty, administration, and students of Chesterfield County Public Schools for their enthusiastic participation in the project. Thanks to Stephanie Fitzgerald for her assistance with all aspects of the project, and to Kinga Petrovai, Bharat Battu, Kevin Reeves, Arielle Niemeyer, Joy Casad, Chad Desharnais, Maisy Suslavich, Lauren Schiller, and Amy Venditta for their assistance with data collection and analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jon R. Star
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jason A. Chen
    • 2
  • Megan W. Taylor
    • 3
  • Kelley Durkin
    • 4
  • Chris Dede
    • 1
  • Theodore Chao
    • 5
  1. 1.Graduate School of EducationHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.The College of William and MaryWilliamsburgUSA
  3. 3.Sonoma State UniversityRohnert ParkUSA
  4. 4.University of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA
  5. 5.Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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