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Coastal Scholars Showcase 2021: Fun and Gamification: Promoting Long-Term Course Engagement, Agency, and Productive Mindset in College Mathematics


Presentation Details

Presenters: Dr. Laura Lynch & Dr. Tanya Cofer 

Titles: AVP Faculty Affairs & Associate Professor of Mathematics; Department Chair & Associate Professor of Mathematics

Departments: Academica Affairs; Mathematics & Data Science



Game design employs mechanics that encourage continued play and progress through game levels by offering gamers choices, rewards, recognition, and opportunities for second chances.  Course gamification is the application of these gaming principles to course design.  These goals are appealing to educators because they offer practical strategies for keeping students engaged and mitigating the loss of confidence and motivation that often follows failure of an assignment or exam. As college math instructors, we saw gamification as an opportunity to address the challenges of teaching students whose academic preparation and motivation to succeed in freshman math courses vary widely. Our approach, which we used in two sections of MATH 1111 College Algebra in fall 2020, centered on reframing course requirements as “experience points (XP)” and opportunities to incentivize student engagement beyond the required material through “achievement points (AP).” XP are a traditional course point system. AP are earned through additional assignments or activities that support student learning beyond the required minimum. AP can be redeemed for items like using a notecard on a test or submitting a homework set late. The achievement system incentivizes good study skills, goal-setting, and metacognition while reinforcing aspects of growth mindset and providing students agency in their learning. We additionally implemented FERPA-compliant course leaderboards to track XP and AP progress, challenging top students on the XP board while further incentivizing all students to engage in the AP system. Unexpectedly, we found the achievement system to be an alternative to the often student-demanded, faculty-dreaded “extra credit” requests. To implement our study and to alleviate the workload of the researchers, we used a team-based approach to teaching.  We also discuss the benefits of this model to faculty wellbeing, which was invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic and an approach we intend to continue.  


Dr. Laura Lynch 

Dr. Tanya Cofer