In the last five years, the use of video-game-like math software in K-12 educational programs has grown exponentially. Every day, more studies are released regarding whether or not the use of software is actually making an appreciable difference in the mathematical skills of children and young adults. The findings are wide-ranging, and the results often seem to have more to do with how the software is incorporated into the current curriculum as opposed to the software itself. However, this statistical variability regarding efficacy has not stopped a number of companies from releasing their own educational software, and some companies have found alternative ways of packaging their products.
Programs like DimensionU have been especially successful. Part math software, part video game, the equation-based product requires students to solve Algebra puzzles to advance. It can be played against other teams all over the world via the Internet, and is currently used in a number of junior high and high school classes around the world. In Hawaii, it is currently being used at Waipahu High School, and since its implementation, 80% of the students have increased their math scores. As Waipahu High is the only school in Hawaii using the program, it has provided a highly focused sample of whether the software is having the desired affect. In this case, the answer is clear.
Kids spend a tremendous amount of time playing video games; according to a Kaiser Family Foundation Study, an average of 1:13 min per day. Think of the impact if this time were redirected towards education. But will a math video game every be as fun as blowing away zombies or flying your very own x-wing? That remains to be seen.