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Learning patterns for the design and deployment of mathematical games

Learning patterns for the design and deployment of mathematical games

Kaleidoscope Network of Excellence - Jointly Executed Integrating Research Projects

European Community, Sixth Framework Programme,
Information Society T
echnologies, IST-2002- Technology-enhanced learning and access to cultural heritage, Project No 507838, 2004-2007



Title: Learning patterns for the design and deployment of mathematical games

Funding: Kaleidoscope Network of Excellence - European Community, Sixth Framework Programme, Information Society Technologies, IST-2002- Technology-enhanced learning and access to cultural heritage, Project No 507838, 2004-2007 - Jointly Executed Integrating Research Projects

Project leaders: David Pratt, Niall Winters

People/Project Members: Dave Pratt, Mark Childs, Niall Winters, Yishay Mor, Monica Wijers, Vincent Jonker, Chronis Kynigos, Efi Alexopoulou, Berner Lindström, Ulrika Bennerstedt, Staffan Björk, Cecilia Kilhamn, Michele Cerulli, Brendan Tangney, Fionnuala O'Donnell, James Bligh


Rationale and problem posed at the time:

School mathematics in Europe has been characterised by traditional, abstract formulation that seems readily understood by only a small fraction of students. The result of this is a common alienation of mathematical knowledge and reluctance of students to engage with the subject. For example, in the UK the number of students studying science and mathematics at A-level has dropped, in the case of mathematics, by 8.5% between 1990/1 and 1999/00. Similarly in 2004, a Swedish government report stressed making mathematics more available to students through less formal approaches.

Although traditional approaches still dominate, there have been attempts to make effective use of learning technologies for mathematics. In recent years, an interesting avenue of exploration has been the design and use computer games as tools for supporting mathematics education. While there have been many worthy achievements, the design and deployment of pedagogically sound mathematics games with a wide appeal has proved illusive. There are many potential reasons for this but it is generally agreed that the process of designing and deploying a game for mathematical learning is a difficult task.

This project "Learning patterns for the design and deployment of mathematical games" aimed to investigate this problem. We worked from the premise that designing games for mathematical learning is a difficult task because it requires the assimilation and integration of deep knowledge from diverse domains of expertise including mathematics, games development, software engineering, learning and teaching. We saw all these aspects of knowledge as various facets of design knowledge. The mathematical dimension of game design pertains to the question of selecting and connecting mathematical content – a question of designing mathematical structures. The question of pedagogy is a question of designing instructional structures, and so on. While each party may have expertise in several of the associated knowledge domains, no single party has expertise in all of them. The complexity of each of the various bodies of knowledge means that it is often hard to communicate ideas between parties. Each community has developed its own lore and jargon. The result of this fragmentation of knowledge is that most games emerge from a particular, often restricted viewpoint. A game that embodies deep mathematical can be poorly designed in terms of the gaming experience, whereas a sleek and entertaining game may be simplistic in its pedagogical intent.

The Project aimed at:

  • Fostering knowledge integration from multiple disciplines,

  • Creating a strata for communication of ideas and concepts between the varied communities involved,

  • Promoting a culture of design grounded in practice and practice informed by design.

To these ends, we have adopted a two-pronged approach. One strand of the project is focused on the design of mathematical games, while the other is focused on their deployment in real-world classroom environments.


The Project produced several types of outcomes:

  1. A Language of Learning Patterns: A repository of patterns for the design, development and deployment of games for mathematical learning. Will include best practice guidelines, working examples, and theoretical analysis.

  2. Video courses: The Learning Patterns project is now offering a video course on using Learning Patterns to design and deploy games for mathematical learning. This course is based on a series of workshops we have conducted during 2006. Each section of the course includes a video segment from one of our workshops, along with links to the relevant resources and tools and a list of readings.

  3. Papers: Academic papers, presentations and conferences derived from the project.

  4. A Literature Review: A review of the research literature on the design and use of games in mathematical education.

  5. Workshops: A series of hands-on workshops for Pattern language building and pattern-based design discussions.

  6. Typologies: A set of typologies for learning patterns for mathematical games and a typology tool for using them and the documentation describing the process of typology development.

  7. A Final Project Report: a doc to share and assimilate all materials and findings within the JEIRP team and to external interested parties and identify future funding for the further development of the ideas in those findings.

  8. Code: General purpose code derived from the project will be made available through SourceForge.