The New York-based online educational gaming company on Wednesday announced a five-week math gaming competition called DU The Math that is selling itself to students as an opportunity to participate in Mindless Behavior. Fortunately for educational gaming advocates, if not for the parents of teenage daughters, we're talking about the boy band and not summer learning loss.
At no cost, students grades 3-9 can sign up as individuals or a school-based team to compete for awards including $40,00 in scholarship prizes, a piano lesson from Greyson Chance, and a day as the honorary fifth member of the hip-hop group that obviously didn't heed advice from the Serious Games Association when choosing a name. The tournament includes five one-week competitions that begin Monday and end May 13, and is an effort to draw attention to games that support education in science, technology, engineering, and math, or the STEM fields, according to a press release.
The event is one of a growing number of competitions geared toward increasing the popularity of educational gaming. The National STEM Video Game Challenge is now in its second year, for one. And with more educators understanding that students are less receptive to educational gaming if it's presented in a format that resembles the classroom, DimensionU's effort to tie un-school-like competition and teen pop stars to its products likely won't be the last. (It's unclear whether the inclusion of "Beats by Dr. Dre" headphones as a smaller weekly prize is aimed at students who like it old school, or faculty who will feel cool by knowing even one name listed in the competition literature.)
But is competition between students the best way for educational gaming to increase its penetration into formal K-12 education? Or would game makers be better served to focus gaming on competition between the student and him or herself, especially for players who are struggling to keep pace with class and feel left behind?
For what it's worth, DimensionU should have some sense of what works, with a presence in more than 75 school districts nationwide, and a reach that includes more than 850,000 students, according to the release. The company's work dates back to 2007.