Semideus: A game for mastering rational numbers

The acquisition of mathematical skills is crucial for today’s society and it is argued that in individual level, insufficient mathematical competencies may be even more harmful to career prospects than reading or spelling deficiencies. The research has also shown that early number competence and the extent to which elementary students master rational numbers are strong predictors of future success in mathematics. Thus, it is important to develop more engaging and effective learning solutions that improve children’s arithmetical skills and ensure that all children have such basic skills that they are able to learn more advanced mathematics later on.


In Games to Schools project we are developing a Semideus game for learning rational numbers. The story and the graphical theme relate to mythology of ancient Greece. The main character, Semideus, has to climb to Mount Olympus to find out his origins. He wants to know whether he is a descendant of gods or not. In order to be able to climb to the next platform of the mountain Semideus has to find winged shoes from current platform. The hint of the location of winged shoes is given in mathematical format or as illustrations. For example in the picture below the shoes are located in point 2/6 of the platform (on imagined number line). If player’s estimation of the point is accurate enough he finds the shoes and can fly to the next platform. If the accuracy is too low he loses energy. Additionally, player has to avoid traps of Zeus by jumping over them. The hints of the traps are also given in mathematical format. If the player has difficulties in estimating or calculating hints he can ask help from the goat. If requested the goat will show the answer to the player. The idea of this kind of help system is to explore players’ avoidance behavior, which will be important part of the game’s learning analytics.

Theoretically, the user interface of Semideus is based on embodied interaction that is assumed to help the player to understand the magnitudes of rational numbers better. Embodied interaction is grounded in theories of embodied cognition that try to explain how perceptual, motor and higher order processes including language and mathematics are bound to each other. The previous research has revealed that embodied training seems to be beneficial in particular for children with lower general cognitive ability and lower working memory capacity. The design of Semideus game relies on assumption that seemingly abstract representations may be based on bodily experiences and movement may help children to understand these abstract concepts. In practice the player walks in the number line and the tilting of the device determines the direction. In western countries the walking and tilting to the right is associated with increment of the number magnitude and walking and tilting to the left as a decrement.

The first version of the game is designed for iPads and the testing of the game starts on mid September 2014. Our aim is to collect data about the effectiveness of the game from several countries. So, if you are interested in participating this research, we are happy to take you on board when we start the main data-gathering phase in the beginning of 2015.

Kristian Kiili, Tampere University of Technology,

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