BMCC/CUNY Professors Develop New Game-Based Math Curriculum

BMCC/CUNY Professors Develop New Game-Based Math Curriculum

Study from BMCC Professors Published in February Found That Games Increased Enjoyment , Especially in Subjects Where Students Reported Greatest Anxiety

Could new game-based technology help community college students overcome the hurdle of remedial math courses?

Borough of Manhattan Community College, The City University of New York will debut an extensive game-based remedial math curriculum for the college’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) majors starting in the 2016 Summer Immersion semester.

The simulation based curriculum is being funded by an $876,000 Advanced Technological Education (ATE) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). In following semesters, three to five more games will be rolled out and made available to all BMCC mathematics professors.

Success in basic algebra is a major stumbling block for many students seeking technical careers according to the NSF. Although it is often assumed that STEM majors start with calculus as their first college math course, this is not the case for many urban and minority college students, according to the NSF. Between 70% and 80% of incoming BMCC freshmen require remedial math according to BMCC’s fact book.

Twenty students majoring in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), who are enrolled in an Intermediate Algebra and Trigonometry will be tasked with preparing for a simulated global climate disaster in a game called The Sampson Effect during the gaming curriculum’s first semester.

By the Fall 2016 semester, more BMCC developmental math gaming materials will be available free to colleges across the country through open source software. The downloadable curricula will include game software, video tutorials and professional development materials for faculty and staff as well as support forum.

Three BMCC Professors: Kathleen Offenholley (Math), Ching-Song Wei (CIS) and Francesco Crocco (English) worked across BMCC departmental lines with John Montanez, Dean of the BMCC Office of Grants and Research Administration to secure the NSF ATE grant that is funding the new course materials.

In February 2016, Offenholley, Crocco and BMCC English Professor Carlos Hernandez published an article on their study of game-based learning in higher education in the peer-reviewed journal Sage. The study found that games increased enjoyment levels, especially in subjects where students reported the greatest anxiety about learning. Specifically, the study found that 50.7% of students who had a game-based math lesson strongly agreed they enjoyed the class verses 36.6% who enjoyed a non game-based class. Enjoyment correlated with improvements in deep learning, the study found.

Math Professor Offenholley says BMCC is at the forefront of the nation’s community colleges in using game-based pedagogy in remedial math courses.

“Game-based teaching can help some of our students overcome a tangible fear of math and perhaps make the subject more enjoyable,” said Offenholley.

Crocco says well designed games can generate motivation.

“They put students into what’s known as the flow state and they become engaged,” said Crocco.

About BMCC:

Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) and enrolls over 25,000 degree-seeking and 11,000 continuing education students a year, awarding associate degrees in 33 fields. BMCC ranks #4 among community colleges nationwide in granting associate degrees to minority students, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. Visit: