A good story can motivate even the most apathetic students into getting to grips with a difficult subject. Developers of math games have tapped into this, and have created fun, intriguing narrative platform-games to engage student learners. The award winning Monkey Tales Games is a sterling example of how to do this right, and have had highly positive feedback from teachers and students on the impact of the game for math proficiency.
Monkey Tales Games is a series of PC math games developed by a European Schoolbook publisher, Die Keure and Larian Studios, in line with US, UK, Irish, Belgian and Polish standards. The games have been rigorously tested by over 30,000 students and were in development for over 4 years using feedback from teachers, schools and universities. Currently, there are five math games that cater for students from second to six grade, which are based on an exciting narrative story that intertwines math and logic puzzles. For students to progress through the game, they must complete mini-games and compete against game characters. Rather than teaching students new math skills, it aims to improve skills that they have been taught in the classroom.
Monkey Tales has been heralded by their educational technology peers by winning the awards at both the European Media and Learning conference and the coveted MEDEA awards. They also take the pedagogical impact of their game seriously by conducting research into its benefits in conjunction with Ghent University. The game bases its educational content on the theory of implicit learning, whereby students learn unconsciously, without thinking about the learning process.
Researchers studied the impact of the game on 88 second grade pupils, and compared their math performance between students who had and had not played the game. Their results found that the students who played the game gave significantly better answers to an arithmetic test than students who had used traditional exercises. These students were also able to solve the test 30% faster than previous attempts and reported higher motivation and learning efficiency.
Looking at their game targeted for second grade students ‘The Princess of Sundara’, it is easy to see why their young research subjects performed so positively in their research. The story begins with the evil dragon Rinjin who captures Princess Ehimaya from the palace of Sundara. Players have to rescue the Princess using their math skills and are taken through an engrossing and fast paced journey through the Monkey Tales kingdom.
At the beginning of the game, students choose an avatar and are introduced to the game by game characters using clear audio and text speech bubbles. They then journey through the very detailed game world using keyboard arrow keys and play mini-games related to addition, subtraction, greater / less than and odd / even numbers games. The games also include key math skills such as what comes before and after, grouping units and dividing in equal parts.
The game graphics are akin to modern platform-style PC games and the game play is fluid, interesting and somewhat addictive. Students who have played any type of video game previously will be impressed by the game structure and fun graphics, which makes it stand apart from some of the simpler math games out there. But the game is also accessible for students who have little video game experience because of its clear instructions and easy manoeuvrability.
An interesting characteristic of Monkey Tales Games is how its technology adapts to each student’s ability level using a unique algorithm. This algorithm keeps students engaged by selecting the best way of improving their skills according to their ability level, and helps prevent students getting stressed or demotivated during the game. This adaptive flexibility makes it an excellent tool for educators who have a wide range of math abilities within their classroom.
Monkey Tales is available to download for PC via Larian Vault’s website. But as part of a study into the effectiveness of the didactic methods used in the game, Larian Studios and Die Keure are offering a free version of The Princess of Sundara to US and UK teachers who will give feedback on the game having used it in their classroom. We also have good news for language and science teachers with Larian and Die Keure’s promise for developing similar games for these subjects in the future.