Savvy educators regularly ask us if our multiplication games are research-based. On the surface that sounds like an important question. But in reality it’s essentially meaningless. In the researching world there’s the common expression that “there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” In other words, knowing that there was some research associated with a product really doesn’t tell you anything. Maybe the research was lousy. Maybe the research showed the product was lame. In either case the manufacturer could still claim it to be research-based. Even worse, research on a poor product can easily be presented in such a way that it SEEMS amazing.
For instance, in one of the multiplication games we came across, their research was from 30 years ago! That’s ancient history, not research. How big was the sample size? How was it controlled and administered, etc? But how many educators really have the training, background, and time to ask and evaluate all those questions? Very few. And so they wind up asking, “Is it research-based?” Check. And they move on.
So is there a solution or are we just being armchair quarterbacks taking shots from the cheap seats? Well, for our multiplication games we took the perspective of Derrin Hill of Imagine Learning. He explained to me that when he’s considering a vendor he always challenges them, “Prove to me it’s worth it.” For instance, if a magazine wants him to advertise he requires them to first run a trackable ad and then he measure the results. If it PROVES effective, he moves forward.
Accordingly, if a school wants to use our multiplication games, we might allow them to pilot the software with an included pre-test and post-test so that they can automatically quantify how effective it is for their students. It’s a very simple way for them to prove how effectively Timez Attack teaches multiplication. The indirect bonus of that approach is that it provides a massive amount of detailed feedback for the developer, allowing them to very clearly see where they’re falling short and improve their product. It’s tantalizing to imagine a day when schools will pay for actual learning and progress rather than just paying for the hope and promise of learning.