**Counting
on Frank**

**What is ***Counting on Frank*?

*Counting
on Frank* (CoF) is the first commercial product resulting from
the Electronic Games for Education in Math and Science collaboration
between researchers in computer science and education, teachers,
and commercial game developers for Electronic
Arts.

In
CoF the player's goal is to help a boy, Henry, and his dog, Frank,
win a contest to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar by collecting
clues as the reward for solving mathematical word problems. The
main educational activities in CoF are solving the word problems,
using the clues to determine the number of jellybeans, and playing
four other mathematical strategy games (mathgames), each with
several variants.

The
primary entertainment elements are the "click-ons" in
each of the eight main scenes on CoF, ie. objects that, when clicked
on, trigger a humorous animation that is generally unrelated to
the educational activities. Other non-educational entertainment
elements include animation sequences as rewards for correct answers
to word problems, and humorous dialog by the main characters.

**So
tell me about the study...**

**Where
to find out more**

The full study is available
in PostScript or MS Word format from our archive. If you just
want the important bits, read on:

**Summary
of Study**

There were two components to the Counting on Frank study: classroom
and home use. In the classroom, children in grades 3-4 played
CoF for 40 minutes twice a week for four weeks. They completed
questionnaires at four points during the study: at the beginning,
middle, end, and six weeks after the CoF sessions ended. The questionnaires
measure the children's performance on word problems similar to
the ones found in CoF, as well as their attitude towards math.
The home-play portion of the study took place over spring break.
Children took home computers with CoF, and could play as much
or as little as they wanted. The childrens' actions were recorded
into log files, which were then (and are still being) analysed
for useful information.

A
major concern during the design of CoF was whether players would
actually use the mathematical activities, or just spend all of
their time playing with click-ons. This study found that this
was not a problem, as children both at home and at school spent
a significant amount of their time (55%) on the math activities.

**Positive
Feedback**

CoF was successful in many respects. It is attractive to most
boys and girls of ages 8-12, and exposes them to a wide range
of content that is recognisable as math. Children enjoyed being
able to move at will between any of the wide range of activities
offered. Several aspects of the game encourage children to think
about the underlying concepts of mathematics behind the puzzles:
the large (over 15,000) range of possible solutions, wide variety
of clues to the solution, giving redundant clues, limiting the
number of clues that can be saves (and therefore be used to determine
the solution to the game), and providing a number line visualisation
of the impact of clues on the solution set.

**And
Some Things to Work On**

The main question that remains is: to what degree does CoF contribute
to learning math? In the controlled school sessions, students
showed greater performance gains on the word-problems after doing
worksheets than playing CoF (although this may be at least partially
due to the similarity between the worksheets and the tests, and
pre-test performance results were high enough that there was limited
room for improvment.) CoF seems to be more suited to practising
word problems, rather than learning how to solve them, due to
the limited number of word problems, and limited variety of these
problems. CoF may have limited effectiveness as a stand-alone
learning tool.