In past articles I’ve written “Interactive engagement, not entertainment, is at the core of a computer game’s ability to motivate. Finding ways to make math more interactive and more engaging is the key to making math software better as well.”

When students play a game they expect to face a struggle of some kind at which they may need to try multiple times before succeeding. In an app or mobile game this is sometimes referred to as “the grind.” At the end a reward is expected. They level up, acquire a new tool or coins in which to purchase something of value to them.

Having monitored students using Ascend Math, it is clear to me that students are more willing to accept the math grind, if like their games, they see an appropriate reward. Intrinsically, success measured by moving up in levels in math is its own strong reward. Providing virtual badges and tokens commemorating the success is consistent with gaming but also supports the intrinsic reward in learning.

The addition of extrinsic motivation at the time of success can add further incentive. Base Camp is a virtual world with fun games and activities added to Ascend Math this school year. After spending time on task in Ascend and successfully completing post-assessments a student gains access to explore Base Camp for three minute increments. In Base Camp they can visit the Treasure Room containing the honors and accomplishments they’ve earned in the Ascend Math program. They can also spend the three minutes playing games like Hungry Bears that require logical thinking and an understanding of geometry.

Since the launch of Base Camp, students are more active than ever this year in Ascend Math. Their usage, gains and growth have all increased completing more objectives and moving up additional grade levels.