Investigating the effectiveness of mathematics games on students' attitudes and learning environment
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The primary focus of the present study was an evaluation of the effectiveness of games when used in college-level mathematics classes in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). A mixed-method approach involved surveys, interviews, observations of classes and narrative stories.As a first step, a sample of 352 students in 33 classes from three colleges in Abu Dhabi (the largest emirate in the UAE) responded to two surveys. The first, a modified version of the What Is Happening In this Class? (WIHIC) questionnaire, was used to assess students’ perceptions of the learning environment. Five of the seven WIHIC scales were selected for use in my study, namely, Student Cohesiveness, Teacher Support, Involvement, Cooperation and Equity. One scale, from the Constructivist Learning Environment Survey (CLES), Personal Relevance, was also added. The second survey, used to assess students’ attitudes, involved two scales: one to assess students enjoyment of mathematics classes (from the Test of Science-Related Attitudes (Fraser, 1981); and one to assess students’ academic efficacy (modified from the Jinks and Morgan’s (1999) Student Efficacy Scale). Both the WIHIC and attitude scales were modified to improve their suitability for use in the UAE and relevance to the present study, and then they were translated into Arabic.The data were analysed for the modified WIHIC and attitude scales to check their factor structure, reliability, discriminant validity, and the ability to distinguish between different classes and groups. In terms of the validity of modified WIHIC and attitude scales when used with college-level students in the UAE, the factor analysis results attested to the sound factor structure of each questionnaire. The results for each modified WIHIC and attitude scale for alpha reliability and discriminant validity for two units of analysis (individual and class mean) compared favourably with the results for well-established classroom environment instruments.A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) for each modified WIHIC scale was used to investigate its ability to differentiate between the perceptions of students in different classrooms. The ANOVA results suggested that students perceived the learning environments of different mathematics classrooms differently on the modified WIHIC scales. In general, the results provided evidence of the validity of the modified WIHIC in describing psychosocial factors in the learning environments of college-level students’ mathematics classrooms in the UAE.The sample of 352 students was also used to examine the strength and direction of associations between the six learning environment scales and the two attitudes scales using simple correlation and multiple regression analyses. There was a statistically significant simple correlation between each attitude scale (Enjoyment of Mathematics Lessons and Academic Efficacy) and each of the six WIHIC scales with the individual as the unit of analysis, but not with the class mean as the unit of analysis. Multiple regression analysis suggested that students’ enjoyment of their mathematics lessons was more positive in classrooms with greater Teacher Support, Cooperation and Personal Relevance, and that Academic Efficacy was higher in classes with more Personal Relevance.Eight of the 33 classes (n=90 students) were exposed to mathematics games. For these students, the effectiveness of the mathematics games was evaluated in terms of classroom environment and attitudes, as well as achievement. Pre-test–post-test differences were explored using a one-way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) with repeated measures (using the student as the unit of analysis). The results suggest that there were statistically significant pre–post differences for three of the six WIHIC scales (namely, Teacher Support, Involvement and Personal Relevance), for both attitude scales, and achievement.In-depth qualitative data (from observations and interviews) provided information about the introduction and use of games in mathematics. The data were analysed to shed light on students’ interactions during the games and to triangulate and to clarify and explain students’ responses to the learning environment and attitude questionnaires. Analysis of the interviews suggested that the students generally enjoyed mathematics more when games were included in their lessons, and that the use of mathematics games had improved their feelings about how well they were performing in mathematics.A narrative, based on the classroom observations, was written to provide the reader with insights into the classrooms that were exposed to the mathematics games. The narrative describing students playing mathematics games suggested that, with the introduction of games in the classroom, students were given the opportunity to interact with each other and to explain and compare their solutions with those of their team-mates. Therefore, qualitative data obtained from students who experienced the use of mathematics games supported the quantitative findings concerning the effectiveness of games in mathematics classes.Finally, a two-way MANOVA with repeated measures on one factor was used to identify the differential effectiveness of using games activities in mathematics instructions for male and female students. The results suggested that, whereas Student Cohesiveness scores were similar for the pre-test, males’ perceived greater cohesiveness than did females for the post-test. Males’ perceptions of Student Cohesiveness improved, while female score deteriorated, during the use of games.The results of my study provide information about the effectiveness of Jeopardy!-type games in terms of the classroom learning environment and students’ outcomes (attitudes and achievement). Because teachers are often reluctant to use computer-based games in their mathematics classrooms, my study is significant as the results have the potential to encourage mathematics teachers to incorporate the use of computer-based games in their classrooms as a viable alternative pedagogical approach. In particular, this study provides valuable information that could help teachers in the UAE to improve their pedagogical practices. The results of this study have the potential to encourage educators, researchers and curriculum developers in the UAE to incorporate the use of computer-based games in the curriculum as a practical way to improve classroom environments and students’ attitudes and achievement.
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