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Children’s Mathematical Reasoning in Online Games: Can Data Mining Reveal Strategic Thinking?


  • This research was funded as part of a grant from the National Science Foundation (DRL-0723829). We gratefully acknowledge the staff, teachers, and students of the participating school. We also thank the Cyberchase production team (especially Sandra Sheppard, Frances Nankin, and Michael Templeton) for their support, and online producers David Hirmes and Brian Lee for building the tracking software we used here. Finally, we are grateful to the field researchers who helped collect our pilot data: Meredith Bissu, Susan R.D. Fisch, Carmina Marcial, Jennifer Shulman, Nava Silton, Faith Smith, and Carolyn Volpe. Without them, this article—and the development of this methodological approach—would have been impossible.

concerning this article should be addressed to Shalom M. Fisch, MediaKidz Research & Consulting, 78 Grayson Pl., Teaneck, NJ 07666; e-mail:


Abstract— Children’s interaction with educational computer games reflects not only their game-playing expertise but also their knowledge and skills about embedded educational content. Recent pilot data, drawn from an ongoing evaluation of children’s learning from educational media, illustrate that, much like earlier research on formal classroom mathematics, children may engage in cycles of increasingly sophisticated mathematical thinking over the course of playing an online game. It is possible to detect these shifts in strategies not only through in-person observations, but via data mining of online tracking data as well. This article discusses implications for the study of mathematical reasoning, children’s use of educational games, and assessment.