Does Gamification in Education Work?: Experimental Evidence from Chile

May 2019
Gamification, or the introduction of game elements to non-game contexts, has potential to improve education but there is little rigorous evidence about its effectiveness. In this paper, we experimentally evaluate an innovative technology program that uses gamification to spur student motivation and increase math learning in low-performing primary schools in Chile. The Conecta Ideas program involves two weekly sessions in a computer lab in which students use an online platform to solve problem sets. The platform tracks individual students advances, compares these advances to those from classmates and features different types of group competitions to promote student motivation. Results indicate large positive effects on math learning, of about 0.27 standard deviation, on the national standardized exam (no effects were found on language). The program also affected several non-academic outcomes. On one hand, it increased students’ preference towards using technology for math learning and promoted the idea among students that study effort can raise intelligence. On the other, the program increased math anxiety and reduced students’ preference towards teamwork. These effects suggest that gamification could be an important tool to boost learning, but that it may bring unintended consequences.