Keywords: Math games, Educational benchmarks, Scaffolding, Feedback, Learning theory, Math content
Well-designed math apps can improve students’ engagement and achievement (Fabian et al, 2016). Previous studies have suggested five educational benchmarks that can be used to identify well-designed math apps (Dubé et al., 2020). However, there is limited research evaluating the educational quality of children’s math apps. To address this problem 33 top math apps in the Apple App store were analyzed. Specifically, a coding scheme was developed and applied for the evaluation of the apps’ in-game content. The coding scheme covered five educational benchmarks (scaffolding, feedback, learning theory, math subjects covered, and content integration). The evaluation of these top math apps showed that, in general, most of the math apps contained more than two educational benchmarks in their game. Although all the apps applied a learning theory and contained feedback, there was a lack of variety in these two benchmarks as the apps tended to primarily use direct instruction and corrective feedback. 93% and 72% of apps included math subjects and scaffolding benchmarks, respectively. Among them, various types of scaffolding and math subjects were prevalent. The least common benchmark was intrinsic content integration, which implied that developers failed at linking the math learning content with the game context. Overall, the majority of math apps contain some amounts of educational benchmarks, but the dominant presence of corrective feedback, direct instruction, and only on- demand scaffolding do not suggest a high-level of educational quality. These preliminary findings highlight the need for improved design of educational math apps.