How Virtual Games Can Help Struggling Students Learn

More educators are using online games to supplement teaching, and are seeing positive results.

More educators are using online games to supplement teaching, and are seeing positive results.
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According to Montes McNeil, the school's math scores on state tests have gone up substantially, by about 20 to 22 composite performance index (CPI) points. And each year, the scores have gone up on state metrics by five to seven points.

"If this was a one-time deal that we get the kids going on First in Math and we get everybody to the same point, then it would level off," Montes McNeil says. "But we've consistently shown over the last four years a growth … and it's my hope and my expectation that we'll continue to show that growth."

Montes McNeil and Latham say the interest and performance of students in the school's special education program was a beneficial surprise. Often times, students from the special education program are part of the school's monthly top 10 students, Montes McNeil says.

"It's something they can access at their particular entry point and can build on their skills," Montes McNeil says. "Some of our students do have such academic needs that they're not performing, and will not perform, at grade level, but yet they feel a lot of success because they can be part of this school-wide initiative."

Another subgroup of students that appeared to benefit from the program is the school's English language learners. For more than half the students in the school, Montes McNeil says, English is not their first language.

One of the games, for example, helps students tell time in different ways by displaying an analog clock, a digital clock, or words, and asks students to then identify another representation of the same time.

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"When students see the numbers '9:30' and see the words 'half past nine,' they can connect that language with the numbers," Latham says. "The program definitely facilitates the learning of the English language maybe a little bit more easily than other programs do, I think. It's not too heavy in language, and yet the language that it does provide is enough for them to learn."

While such games often prove particularly useful in topics such as science and math, Montes McNeil says the school is still searching for other games to provide the same level of engagement and outcomes for subjects such as English.

"It is a piece of the puzzle … that we continue to try to work out as the needs of the students change, as the expectations of the state and the country change," Montes McNeil says.

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