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Calculus Game Born out of Texas A&M Lab Boosts Student Outcomes

When Giulia Bini introduced the use of a video game in her high school calculus class, she saw a 100 percent pass rate on testing about limits compared to 80 percent in the previous year; plus, grades rose by 10 percent.

The game she used, Variant: Limits by Triseum, places players on an imaginary planet. To rescue the planet from "imminent doom," they help "Equa," the main character, solve a series of increasingly tough calculus problems.

Triseum, based in Bryan, TX, grew out of the Texas A&M University Live Lab, to target games for college students tackling calculus and art. The "Learning Interactive Visualization Experience" Lab collaborates with other departments and institutions to create educational games. Lab Founder and Director Andre Thomas also leads Triseum.

According to Bini, who teaches in Milan, Italy, she assigned the game as homework, asking her students to get through "Zone 1," the first level. Class time was used to share ideas about the meanings of the math terms in the game, to address the content, answer questions and introduce the next levels. But students had a tendency to jump ahead, playing the game even before Bini had covered the next set of concepts.

"Because [students] were playing a game, it hardly seemed like homework," she wrote in a blog article about her experiences.

Bini also used a YouTube video and interspersed questions to walk students through a graphing exercise and created a drag & drop assessment to test their understanding. She found those activities so successful, she created a digital library of online and offline assessments for her own purposes and to share with others, some of the content in Italian, most in English.

Eventually, as the class moved on to other units, she had to return to the use of more traditional resources. However, noted Bini, "Variant truly changed [students'] attitudes about math. They have become more deeply involved with the concepts, they retained the information and they had fun."

Now she's awaiting additional games in the calculus series, which Triseum said it expected to release this fall.

Variant: Limits is currently available through the Triseum online store.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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