Learning from number board games: you learn what you encode

Dev Psychol. 2014 Mar;50(3):853-64. doi: 10.1037/a0034321. Epub 2013 Oct 7.


We tested the hypothesis that encoding the numerical-spatial relations in a number board game is a key process in promoting learning from playing such games. Experiment 1 used a microgenetic design to examine the effects on learning of the type of counting procedure that children use. As predicted, having kindergartners count-on from their current number on the board while playing a 0-100 number board game facilitated their encoding of the numerical-spatial relations on the game board and improved their number line estimates, numeral identification, and count-on skill. Playing the same game using the standard count-from-1 procedure led to considerably less learning. Experiment 2 demonstrated that comparable improvement in number line estimation does not occur with practice encoding the numerals 1-100 outside of the context of a number board game. The general importance of aligning learning activities and physical materials with desired mental representations is discussed.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Games, Experimental*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mathematics*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Space Perception / physiology*