Chan and colleagues examined the impact of two game-based technologies on conceptual knowledge, procedural knowledge, and procedural flexibility in algebraic equation solving. Two different game-based technologies are DragonBox Algebra 12+ (DragonBox) and From Here to There! (FH2T). DragonBox is a commercial app in which students move and combine pictures on the screen to isolate a box containing a dragon, similar to solving for *x* in algebraic equations. FH2T is a researcher-developed game in which students transform mathematical expressions from a start state (e.g., 16×29) to a specified goal state (e.g., 16×30 – 16×1) using gesture actions (e.g., tapping, dragging) on screen. Both games are based on the idea that an individual perceives mathematical symbols as objects in space and both provide immediate feedback during the game. While the designer of DragonBox disguises the algebraic symbols under images, the designer of FH2T presents algebraic notations in the game.

The sample was drawn from a large randomized controlled trial which took place in a suburban district in Southeastern US in 2020-2021 academic year involving grade 7 students to test the efficacy of game-based and non-game-based technology. The current study only focused on 887 students who were assigned to the DragonBox (n=275) and the FH2T (n=612) conditions. The participants played their respective games for nine 30-min sessions across the school year. Students were assessed for algebraic knowledge and mathematics attitude before (pretest), during (midtest), and after (posttest) the nine intervention sessions. The results are shown below.

- Students improved their conceptual knowledge across the three time-points of the algebra test.
- Students significantly improved on procedural knowledge from pretest to midtest, but significantly dropped at posttest. Compared to pretest, students were 1.18 times less likely to have correct answers at posttest.
- Similarly, students’ performance on procedural flexibility increased at midtest but decreased at posttest. Compared to pretest, students were 1.41 times less likely to provide correct responses at posttest.
- The effect was not significantly different between the two games.

The decrease in students’ procedural knowledge and procedural flexibility was puzzling. The authors believed it could be explained by the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to school closures during pandemic, there was loss in students learning. By contrast, both game-based technologies improved the concept knowledge of algebra even under the impact of the ‘COVID-19 slide’.

Source: Chan, J. Y.-C., Closser, A. H., Ngo, V., Smith, H., Liu, A. S., & Ottmar, E. (2023). Examining shifts in conceptual knowledge, procedural knowledge and procedural flexibility in the context of two game-based technologies. *Journal of Computer Assisted Learning*. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcal.12798