Minecraft Education Edition's 3D environment and block-based mechanics make it a great place for students to learn and test mathematical principles. When they are laid out spatially, concepts like area, perimeter, patterns, ratios and coordinates come to life. Engaging students with a game they love and know helps them stay energized and engaged.
We wanted to learn more about Minecraft's potential benefits in teaching math. We partnered with the Queensland University of Technology's Digital Media Research Centre to explore the potential impact Minecraft: Education Edition has on younger students learning mathematics. We were keen to explore the ways the Minecraft environment fosters engagement, especially in classrooms where teachers are not familiar with the game. Students showed remarkable improvement in their math skills and confidence after a three-month-long study. We want to share the results with you and offer some inspiration for how you can use Minecraft: Education Edition in your math classroom.
- Two schools in Brisbane (the state's capital) - One school in Gold Coast City, in the southeast
- There are two schools in Toowoomba's inland region.
- A school in rural Cairns, North Queensland
These schools were chosen by the researchers to ensure a wide range of socio-economic and cultural statuses. They wanted to include teachers who had never used Minecraft at school or at home. While the emphasis was on new teachers, some educators have extensive experience, including one Minecraft Global Mentor. Almost all of the students had played Minecraft before.
The study was designed to share simple resources with six schools, as the project's primary focus was on novice Minecraft educators. To ensure that the learning activities were as easy as possible, it was important to keep the focus on mathematics and not technological issues or the complexities of more advanced Minecraft: Education Edition lessons. The team selected the Algebra Architecture, Area and Volume lessons to ensure that the activities were in line with the Australian curriculum. They also provided support materials.
Algebra Architecture teaches students how to use math models to understand arithmetic patterns and build architectural designs. Area and Volume encourages students to solve spatial mathematics problems, which is a great challenge in Minecraft's cubic environment with uniformly sized blocks.
The more experienced teacher explained that he had used Minecraft to illustrate concepts such as scale, addition, multiplication, volume, perimeter, and volume. The greatest strength of Minecraft? The game's greatest strength? Minecraft: Education Edition should only be used to communicate and collaborate on ideas and knowledge.
A teacher who was just starting Minecraft saw the benefits immediately. She was amazed at how excited her students were to use it in class. She noticed a marked improvement in the students' attitudes towards general mathematics when they were compared to learning in Minecraft. She believes that Minecraft is a great way for students to understand math concepts and engage all learners.
What about the students? The Brisbane school's learners unanimously stated that they would like to use Minecraft again for math education. The team asked students if they felt their understanding has improved after playing the game. They received responses such as "It just feels easier on the computer" and "It made mathematics really fun and I'm really good at Minecraft on the PC." Students were overwhelmingly happy with their experience.
We were particularly interested in the results of Far North Queensland school, located over 1,000 miles north from the capital. Students can suffer from significant disadvantages in rural schools that lack access to technology and resources. The study involved a composite grade 3/4 class, and the teacher was completely new to Minecraft. She had never used it as a teaching tool or even played Minecraft before. Despite her inexperience, she was able to see the benefits immediately and shared this insightful reflection.
My teaching experience has made me confident in using my usual maths resources. They are a mix of digital, paper, and hands-on. Minecraft is interactive and has many more elements than any other digital resource I have used. This adds to the difficulty and complexity. It allows students to explore and learn more, which creates greater challenges for monitoring and managing lessons. This aspect is greatly helped by the portfolio, camera, and slate.
The students were so easy to engage in the activities, it was overwhelming for me. Due to their high skill level with the game before the learning activity, they completed tasks much faster than I expected and were able to complete the activity with much greater success. With more time, I would love to see students create more complex patterns and structures than the ones they created in this activity. This game offers students the chance to see maths in a'real-world' context and extend their learning.
Although the open-ended environment can present challenges for novice educators in classroom management, the in-game features that are aimed at teacher facilitation, student documentation, and the support for spatial understanding make Minecraft a powerful learning tool.
These are just some of the responses from students and educators at six schools. We encourage you to go through the entire study and to dig deeper into the responses of learners and teachers. The research can be accessed here.
It may seem obvious that students would prefer to store their math lessons within a game-based learning environment. This is especially true for a platform like Minecraft. But what about the learning value? Teachers were asked how Minecraft had contributed to their overall learning experience. All but a few students scored at least 3 on a scale from 1-5. Not a single student received a rating of 1. This means that every teacher saw some value in Minecraft for their math students. A significant number of educators believe the benefits are substantial.
These key insights were provided by the learners themselves. It was almost universally agreed that Minecraft: Education Edition taught math well and students would love to do it again. Students' interest can be sparked by a game-based learning environment.
Students not only enjoyed the experience but also provided compelling evidence that the game had improved their learning. A relatively even number of learners answered questions about their math skills on a scale from 1 to 5, with 4 being the most popular answer.
The learners were then asked about their math skills while using Minecraft.
What does this mean? There could be many interpretations. It's possible that the data will show a greater level of confidence and ease in mathematics when it is housed in a digital, gaming-based environment. It is possible that students feel more in control of their subject matter when mathematical information is presented visually and spatially. No matter what the meaning of these results may be, the result is the same: Minecraft: Education Edition helps students feel more confident in math.
This post is a small sample of the extensive research's results. To hear more teacher and student testimonials, view more detailed data, and learn more about this experiment, we recommend that you go to the entire study. You can read and download the entire research here.
Our Math Subject Kit is a great resource for math teachers who want to make math fun in Minecraft's game-based learning environment. It is packed with resources, curriculum guides, lessons, and other support materials to help you teach. If you're new to Minecraft: Education Edition, take your first steps toward using this game-based learning tool for students-whether they're learning at home or at school-at education.minecraft.net.