Monday, 15 June 2015

Title: Educational computer games and their impact on maths anxiety in University social science students (by Marc Bonne)

Educational computer games are already known to help motivate university students to learn maths. However, few studies have measured the impact of such games on maths anxiety: a significant factor contributing to underperformance in maths-based studies.

This project aims to assess the degree to which educational computer games affect maths anxiety in university social science students. Maths anxiety is prevalent amongst such students because many lack a maths-oriented background, but are often being exposed to statistics and other maths subjects during their courses.

The study consists of a systematic literature review of educational games and maths anxiety (currently underway).  When this is completed, students from the Faculty of Social Science in the University of Sheffield will be invited to complete the Maths Anxiety Rating Scale (MARS) brief scale in order to assess the scale of their maths anxiety. Participants will then put into a control group and an experimental group. The control group will carry on their course as normal, while the experimental group will play an online maths game.

The experimental group will be observed as they play the game.  Data collected will include think-aloud data; records of keyboard and mouse strokes; and video recordings of gameplay and body language.

A sample of participants from the experimental group will be interviewed in order to gauge how they felt while playing the game.  This, in conjunction with the video data, will help identify which aspects of the game provoke an emotional response .

A post-session maths anxiety scale will be given to both the control group and the experimental group in order to measure any difference in maths anxiety levels before and after the session. Furthermore, the average maths anxiety levels of each group are to be compared and analysed.

Several online maths games have been identified as possible choices to be used for data collection.  A pre-pilot study is to take place where potential participants play each of the three online games and decide which one to use for the main study based on the games’ usability.

Following the pre-pilot study, a pilot study will take place involving the same procedures as the main study but with smaller sample sizes.


  1. That's very interesting! I have a question though: are there considerations in whether the participants like to play games or not?

    I'm asking because personally I'm ultra nervous about maths, and I don't like to play computer games, because they also make me anxious. So if after the experiment my anxiety level stayed the same or even levitated it could be because of the game instead of maths, which would probably mess up the statistics.

  2. Thanks for your comment Zoe. Mark's response is:
    "Good point! Computer games do increase anxiety for some people. From what I've read from those affected, anxiety fluctuates depending on features such as the game's interface, speed, sound, difficulty, competitive multiplayer and other factors.

    For the pre-pilot study, I'm looking to get feedback from potential participants to three different games (more details in a later blog). I'll ask them to identify which of the games they would prefer to play for the main study. In a demographic questionnaire, I'll be asking how often the participants play computer games. Now you've raised the matter though, it may be worth asking if they actually like playing computer games at all.