Turning up the heat: Summer school programs use math video games for enrichment and to stem summer brain drain

Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) serves all of Hillsborough County.  It is the third largest school district in Florida and the 11th largest district in the United States, serving more than 193,000 students in 243 schools.   Approximately 48 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch program.

Hillsborough Superintendent MaryEllen Elia first learned about the supplemental software at a conference and brought the information back to her staff.

The immersive games require students to create their own avatars and then face numerous mathematical obstacles that necessitate knowledge of content and swift reaction to navigate through the games and score points.  As they compete, students build upon basic skills like multiplication, division, and fractions, which in later years will lead to mastery of everything from proportions, number lines, and adding and subtracting integers; to order of operations, evaluating expressions, employing function tables, and solving complex equations.

Janet Boatman, middle school math supervisor for Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida, immediately saw the games’ appeal after she participated in a demonstration.  She quickly decided to incorporate them into the county’s eight-week summer enrichment program at three school sites.

“We saw firsthand how these games get students excited about learning math.  They were so engaged that they not only caught up to where they should have been the previous year, but many even gained ground, allowing them to start the current school year ahead of the game,” said Boatman.  “As a result of the successful summer experience, we have incorporated the math games at one site this school year and plan to expand next year to additional sites. And of course, we will have three DimensionM summer camps again this summer.”


During AISD’s 10-day program, students were assessed twice by way of a survey.  Nearly 82 percent of the student respondents indicated they were improving in understanding key mathematics concepts such as negative numbers and generalizing patterns. More than 86 percent of the students were quick to respond positively to the question about whether they liked the games and whether they thought the games were helping them to improve their mastery of mathematics.

In Hillsborough, the results were stunning. Pre- and post-test results indicated a 19 percent gain in math scores.

“The students commented that they never knew they could have this much fun at summer enrichment camp,” said Boatman.  “As educators, we love to see this kind of enthusiasm for math.  Coupled with improved student learning–it makes us all winners.”

Hillsborough students finished the summer course with an action-packed gaming tournament in Tampa where they successfully demonstrated what they learned in just a few weeks time.

Boatman continued, “I was really pleased at the retention rates our summer enrichment camp program enjoyed this year.  Parents told us their students were begging them to let them continue attending after the session was over.  It was so refreshing to see how interested these students were in math and how much they helped one another.  I encourage other schools to try it–they’ll be hooked!”

For more information, please go to Tabula Digita or DimensionM.

eSchool News Staff

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