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Book Chapter

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Digital Games and Mathematics: Learning Potential, Promises and Pitfalls


Many suggest that digital games are a way to address problems with schools, yet research on their ability to promote problem solving, critical thinking, and twenty-first century skill sets appears to be mixed. In this chapter, I suggest that the problem lies not with digital games, but with our conceptualization of what it means to promote problem solving and critical thinking, and how transfer of such skills works in general and, specifically, with games. The power of digital games lies not in some magical power of the medium, but from embedded theories (e.g., situated learning and problem-centered instruction) and from good instructional design (the principles of learning and teaching to which all good instruction must adhere). This chapter describes situated, authentic problem solving (SAPS): a model to explain how digital games can promote transfer and improve attitudes toward mathematics. By examining research on the instructional practices (situated learning) and outcomes (transfer, problem solving, attitudes) that lie at the heart of SAPS, we can chart a path forward for best practices of digital games in mathematics education.

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Published as:

Van Eck, Richard N. “SAPS and Digital Games: Improving Mathematics Transfer and Attitudes in Schools.” Digital Games and Mathematics Learning: Potential, Promises and Pitfalls, edited by Tom Lowrie and Robyn Jorgensen (Zevenbergen), Springer Netherlands, 2015, pp. 141–73. Copyright © 2015 Springer Link,

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