Abstract Details

Game-Based Learning To Engage Students With Applied Statistics Using A Simulation Role-Play Game

In this research study, we developed a novel Multi-Conceptual Game-Based Learning Model and examined how this model could support the learning & teaching of statistics/ mathematics topics covered in the 1st year undergraduate Business Computing/ Computer Science Syllabus. The Multi-Conceptual Game Based Learning (MCGBL) Model is an innovative theoretical framework that was designed with the attempt to fill a gap in the literature of an existing problem within our society, i.e. negative emotion towards mathematics/ statistics, and how we can enhance self-efficacy in STEM (Science, technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects such as mathematics/ statistics that require students to obtain a firm grasp of theoretical knowledge and apply it to real-life context. This is because technology, and the way it is perceived as useful and fun can play a key role in enhancing learners’ self-efficacy, changing behaviour, a way of learning and interacting with the game, and therefore producing desired learning outcomes. Data were collected via a series of six focus-group interviews (FGIs), questionnaires and pre & post-test surveys. Results show that SimCity game, as a simulation roleplay game, significantly increases students’ self-efficacies in applied statistics. The game was demonstrated as a useful tool for learning applied statistics and as an activity for promoting problem-solving and decision making. The findings also demonstrate that further exploration and integration of game-based approaches to mathematics/ statistics education is necessary as this would facilitate the digestion of complex information more easily and comprehensibly.


Keywords: Mathematics Education, SimCity, Game-Based Learning, Serious Games, Applied Statistics.



Literature indicates that mathematical learning within STEM subjects is increasingly and universally fundamental in science and technology today (Smith, 2004, 2017). However, many learners perceive mathematics as a complex subject, thus express negative emotions towards it. Research shows that there are many socio-cognitive, socio-cultural and psychological factors behind “blockage about mathematics” (Skemp, 1986:15; Illeris, 2007; Boaler, 2009; Lewis, 2013; Slyman, 2014) exacerbating this ‘pressing social problem,’ a real problem in society, that operates as a ‘stimulus’ and drives many researchers & educators such as Slyman (2014) to wonder about issues surrounding learners that hinder learning. However, this ‘blockage’ about mathematics (Skemp, 1986, 1989) is still present and it is a worrying issue, which has driven many researchers such as Dweck (2006), Illeris (2007) and Lewis (2013) to examine why for many undergraduates mathematics brings fear and anxiety or even pain, “neural pain” (Lyons & Beilock, 2012:1). Furthermore & in a case study conducted at a South London University, Slyman (2014) looked at factors behind negative emotions towards mathematics; She found that there are various psychological, physiological and socio-cognitive aspects behind blockages to learning from poor quality teaching practice, low engagement, fear, anxiety, low self-efficacy and esteem to lack of support that poorly shape learners’ experiences (Slyman, 2014). However, these factors could not be helped/ resolved because they still exist within society. Within the psychoanalytic framework, research demonstrates how ‘fear’ and ‘anxiety’ as emotional and psychological factors are real contributors to disaffect of mathematics (Early, 1992). This is known as maths anxiety or maths phobia (Maloney et al., 2013). Nevertheless, Jameson & Fusco (2014:309) demonstrate that reasons behind maths anxiety are still indistinguishable and could be related to “self-efficacy and self-concept” i.e., low confidence. Thus, this influences learners’ experiences with this critical subject, mathematics. But, how can we make mathematical learning stimulating? Are there any engaging strategies of exploring and experimenting with mathematics in a playful creative way? There is an increasing necessity to discern the effects of game-based learning (Igor et al., 2013; Slyman, 2018).

Game-based learning is a significantly noteworthy area of research because they are widely integrated in mathematics, computing and business education as an effective pedagogical tool especially in business management, strategy, marketing and international business (Faria & Wellington, 2004; Vos, 2014; Vlachopoulos & Makri, 2017; Slyman, 2018). Game-based learning is a type of games that have clear learning outcomes where players can experiment with real-life examples in a risk-free environment. It consists of challenge, fantasy, complexity and control, and these according to Malone & Lepper (1987) and Gee (2003) are fundamental tools in game design. Game characteristics are: Fantasy as a crucial element/ characteristics of the game, as it allows the users to experience the beauty of imagination, immersing the players, in an incredible world of fantasy where unbelievable becomes real; Rules/ Goals are some of the components that govern how the games’ rules are determined and played (Garris et al., 2002). These game characteristics provide the structure of the game and contains fixed rules, strategies and unpredictable results; Sensory stimuli is the imaginative/ creative sensation of the game that immerses/eludes the perception of the player into accepting the fantasy of the game world using sound effects, graphics and other stimulus (Malone & Lepper, 1987; Garris et al., 2002; Shell, 2015); Challenge: Challenging games and meaningful goals should be made essential ingredients of games. This could be made according to levels, enabling players to track their performance, review feedback and progress further up in levels. Mystery/Curiosity to unlock or solve some of the game mysteries through discovering the unknown or new knowledge (For example, adventure games); Control is where the learner has control over the game s/he is playing. According to Garris et al. (2002:11), games evoke “a sense of personal control when users are allowed to select strategies,” this self-control over the game has increasingly engaged and motivated students to learn a great deal of skills. Furthermore, this feeling of personal control/ ownership over learning, according to Cardinot & Fairfield (2019), encourage students to develop relationships/ socialise with other players.

Research Objectives

Game-based learning is a significantly noteworthy area of research because they are widely integrated in mathematics, computing and business education as an effective pedagogical tool. A significant question raised by researchers who explore how to measure learning in games situations is, i.e., “what is (specifically) learned?” (Faria, 2001:104, cited in Cronan & Douglas, 2012). Jagger et al. (2016), Yusoff et al. (2010) and Kraiger et al. (1993) used the Technology Accepted Model (TAM). Building on this model, this research employs an innovative MCGBL Model to assess the usage of IT and measure the usefulness/ impacts on learning, and users’ interaction with IT and perception of the usage of new technology, and introduces a new learning within game-based learning.

The research questions are:

  • What is the relationship between games learning and applied statistics?
  • Does the use of GBL influence student learning of applied statistics?
  • What are student perceptions of learning through games?


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