ISTE Standard 4 – Using Computer Games to Develop Problem Solving Skills in Children

Question: What online games exist that support and encourage critical thinking, problem solving, and collaborating with others?

The central focus of ISTE Standard 4 is helping “students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources” (ISTE Standard 4). While I was reading one of the required assignments, 3 Ways Coding and Gaming Can Enhance Learning (Kiang, 2014), I thought back to my own experiences as a child, and realized that many of the problem solving and critical thinking skills I developed were through playing board games.  As technology has gained a larger presence since I was a child, many of these games, as well as others, that I played can now be played online.

The article Elementary School Students Level Up with Math Games (Roscorla, 2011) outlines a variety of math related games that students across the nation are using to help build problem solving skills.  Sussex Elementary School, located within the Baltimore County Public School District, has been using a program called First in Math.  Not only is it engaging for students, but it has motivated students and has resulted in an increase in math proficiency.  According to the article, “in 2009, the school’s students were 69.8 percent proficient and advanced in math. But in 2010, that percentage jumped to 94.3” (Roscorla, 2011).  Students in 5th grade at Berthoud Elementary School in Colorado use iPads to play Bismarck and SET, which are based off of 2 physical games (Roscorla, 2011).  Students play in teams and play other teams in the building. Another program used in Baltimore in their Middle School is Lure of the Labyrinth.  This game has a story line and students solve problems to advance to the next level (Roscorla, 2011).

I also realized that another game I researched in a previous post applied to this one as well. DreamBox Learning created fun, online math games for students in PreK through 8th grade (DreamBox, 2015). It is engaging for students and allows each child to work at their own pace. This is fantastic because students who require more time on a certain topic can take longer to complete that unit, while others can move to other math units. While this is not a substitute for teaching math, it is a great program to use in conjunction with a math curriculum. Additionally, DreamBox provides teachers and parents with real time data for each student, and it gives tips for fun math activities that parents can do with their kids. Through these games, students further develop problem solving skills and learn about a variety of techniques that may not be taught in a traditional learning environment. I found two videos that discuss the many benefits of DreamBox: and

An added benefit to online games that I had not considered was brought up in the Roscorla article.  Roscorla states, “the students couldn’t come to school for eight days during a two-week stretch of heavy snowfall… Even though they didn’t have school, the students actually played math games to pass the time” (2011).  Introducing educational games in the classroom can have profound effects on academic achievement, while encouraging students to develop problem solving skills that can be transferred to experiences outside of the classroom.


Kiang, D. (2014). 3 Ways Coding and Gaming Can Enhance Learning. Retrieved from

Roscorla, T. (2011). Elementary School Students Level Up with Math Games. Retrieved from

DreamBox Learning. (2015). DreamBox. Retrieved from

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6 Responses to ISTE Standard 4 – Using Computer Games to Develop Problem Solving Skills in Children

  1. Hi Ryder,
    I like the question you formed and investigated. I agree with you, that games (video games, board games, table top games) are all very helpful in forming problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. They typically involve a lot of strategy and puzzle solving which are great skills to develop and possess. The math games you mentioned are great examples. Friendly competition helps students be more engaged and feel involved in the classroom with their peers. I agree that games are not a substitute for teaching, but they are a great supplement. Thanks for the thoughtful post, I enjoyed reading it.


    • ryderd1 says:

      Hi Danielle,
      Thanks for your comment! The strategy and problem solving skills that students develop through playing games carry into their lives as adults and professionals. I like the idea of incorporating math games as a way to supplement teaching and that it allows for students to have more practice with math concepts. I also like that it is fun for students where they are motivated to play on their own time. Another great thing about math games is that engages students who may otherwise struggle in math – these students are able to move at their own pace, and they are having fun while developing math skills. It is so important that all students have a degree of proficiency in math, and I feel that these programs can help students and teachers attain that goal.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Ryder,

    Great topic! I like that this program offers real time data that both parents and teachers can view. Additionally, I like that it encourages parents to do math activities at home by offering them fun learning ideas. My school district uses a math and phonics program called Starfall. It is very user friendly and great for students preschool – 2nd grade! I first noticed that my district was using it a few years ago and was shocked that they were letting the students play video games at school. Then, I got to know the program better and I fell in love with it. Kids become so engaged and really did enjoy learning math and phonics skills!



    • ryderd1 says:

      Hi Katie,
      I have never heard of Starfall! I’ll have to check into that. It’s great that it can be used for math and phonics. Initially I wasn’t sure how I felt about integrating technology in the classroom, since I feel that many kids are already using it at home and I prefer that kids have opportunities to explore the world around them through experiences, not the iPad. However, in moderation these activities can be tremendously helpful and can help students understand and solve problems. I’m excited to get into the classroom and see whether my school or mentor teacher use any of these as a supplement to teaching.
      Thanks for your comment!


  3. Hi Carden,
    Excellent post! It was great reading how your personal experience related to the topic you explored. As Katie mentioned above, even in preschool we have found Starfall to be great for the kids in terms of problem solving and creativity in a way that they are easily engaged in. I have never used DreamBox, but you mentioned it is able to be used with young children also, so I will have to check it out!
    – Danette


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