Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

The Effects of Game-Based Learning on Mathematical Confidence and Performance: High Ability vs. Low Ability

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

The Effects of Game-Based Learning on Mathematical Confidence and Performance: High Ability vs. Low Ability

Article excerpt


Mathematics is a fundamental skill in our daily life. Humans have been applying mathematical knowledge for over 4000 years. In addition, Gauss referred mathematics as the queen of sciences (von Waltershausen, 1856), which implied the importance of mathematics. However, students often perceive mathematics as a difficult subject (Stodolsky, Salk, & Glaessner, 1991). Low confidence is one of the critical reasons that makes students feel difficult to learn mathematics. Such a negative feeling may consequently make a student give up learning mathematics (Brown, Brown, & Bibby, 2008).

In other words, self-confidence plays an important role in learning (Maclellan, 2014) because it is a predictor of a learner's learning behavior, such as the degree of effort made and the expectation of outcomes (Schunk, 1990). Students with high self-confidence may attain better performance in tasks (Kleitman, Stankov, Allwood, Young, & Mak, 2013) and engage in target tasks more actively (Gushue, Scanlan, Pantzer, & Clarke, 2006) than those who are less confident about the tasks. In addition, students with high self-confidence usually regard difficult tasks as meaningful tests (Bandura, 1994) while those with low self-confidence tend to avoid calling for help (Ryan, Patrick, & Shim, 2005). Thus, there is a need to give additional support to students with low confidence toward mathematics.

Past studies found that digital games had potentials to enhance students' confidence (Cunningham, 1994; Radford, 2000). Furthermore, digital games can also enhance students' learning motivation (Klawe, 1998; Nussbaum, 2007) and their learning performance (Ke & Grabowski, 2007). Therefore, embedding math learning into digital games may be a possible solution to enhance students' self-confidence, learning motivation and learning performance.

To this end, this study investigates whether digital games can be adopted to enhance students' confidence toward mathematics and meanwhile to improve students' learning performance, especially for those with a low level of self-confidence toward mathematics. In addition, although past studies found the positive effects of GBL, the effects were usually reported holistically. However, it is not clear whether every student could benefit from GBL. Since the issue of individual difference is more and more important in the design of learning environments, this study further investigates how students with different levels of academic ability react to GBL. More specifically, the research questions of this study can be summarized as follows:

* Whether GBL enhances students' confidence and learning performance toward mathematics?

* Whether students with different levels of academic ability react similarly to GBL?

Theoretical background

Confidence is a critical element in learning; past studies indicated that confidence correlates positively with performance (Al-Hebaish, 2012). This strong and positive correlation was also reported in the area of mathematics education (Stankov, Lee, Luo, & Hogan, 2012). Confidence affects an individual's learning in various aspects. For example, there is a correlation between confidence and the elective enrollment of mathematics courses (Kleanthous & Williams, 2011; Metie, Frank, & Croft, 2007). Confidence also affects an individual's effort; a learner with low confidence might not pay full effort to complete the task (Tschannen-Moran, Woolfolk Hoy, & Hoy, 1998).

Recently, the results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) showed that Asian students tended to have low confidence toward mathematics (Mullis, Martin, & Foy, 2008). Comparing the confidence level from the eighth grade and the fourth grade, students at the eighth grade had lower confidence than students at the fourth grade. This result implies students are losing their confidence toward learning mathematics by the increase of their age. …

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