Relative Advantage of Using Digital Games in the Mathematics Classroom

According to a 2014 article by Keeler, digital classroom games fall into three categories: game-based learning, playsheets, and gamification. Game-based learning is “when students play games to learn content” while gamification is “the application of game-based elements to non-game situations” (Keeler).  Playsheets provide an opportunity for content to be reinforced somewhere between game-based learning and gamification.

Keller (2014) explains that playsheets are worksheets converted into a digital form that add graphics, sounds, a progress bar, levels, or badges.  Brain Pop, Khan Academy, and Quia offer games that can be classified as playsheets.  In my opinion, playsheets are the easiest to implement in my classroom due to their availability of stored games along with the ease of creating a new game.

Kurley Ferguson summarizes some of the key reasons why game use has educational benefits in her 2014 dissertation.  A few of those points include encouraging learners who lack interest, building confidence, reducing instructor load, enhancing retention, enhancing creative and critical thought, and providing a concrete representation for abstract content.

It can be difficult to keep students interested in their math practice or to get them interested in the first place.  Sometimes, the confidence that can come from a game badge will help to get the students doing more practice.  Critical thinking, problem solving, and retention are common issues that many of my colleagues in the math department note as areas of weakness for our students.  Kurley Ferguson’s findings that games can assist in developing some of those shortfalls is reassuring.


Kurley Ferguson, T. L. (2014).  Mathematics achievement with digital game-based learning in high school algebra 1 classes (Doctoral dissertation).

Keeler, A. (2014). Beyond the worksheet: Playsheets, GBL, and gamification. Edutopia.  Retrieved from


2 thoughts on “Relative Advantage of Using Digital Games in the Mathematics Classroom

  1. I enjoyed reading your post, Amy! I had not previously read of the term “playsheets” as a type of gaming in the classroom. I like knowing it as a category because as you pointed out, it’s not entirely game-based learning nor gamification. I assume that you agree with Ferguson regarding the benefits of game use- do you see the same when your students use these types of resources? I am more and more interested in incorporating this into my lessons and am wondering if it is best when used with certain content, etc.
    -Sarah T.


  2. In my opinion, the results depend upon the type of student. Those who are self-motivated to improve and always strive for perfection would rather just complete problems on paper so they are not wasting time with the “bells and whistles” of special effects, rewards, and badges or dealing with the difficult formatting of math symbols on a computer or iPad. Other students in my classes need that extra bit of push to get a “trophy” on their timeline in order to keep moving on.


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