Turning research into a product

How did we get to where we are now?

BrainQuake started life as an initiative to take a promising body of university research in mathematics education and turn it into a product that could be made widely available to any student in the world, young or old.

That history, coupled with our driving commitment to subject each version of our product to independent—and ideally peer-reviewed—university research, resulted in Digital Promise naming BrainQuake the “Top Entry in the Learning Sciences” category in its 2016 Research-Based Products Campaign.

In addition, our launch product, Wuzzit Trouble, was featured in two major books on education, Stanford professor Jo Boaler’s Mathematical Mindsets and education and technology writer Greg Toppo’s The Game Believes in You, as well as catching the interest of a number of influential technology writers, among them Jordan Shapiro, who wrote about us on at least four separate occasions, for Forbes Magazine in 2013 and 2015, for Sesame Workshop in 2014, and for Thesis Magazine in 2015.

It was that strong pedigree in solid university research that also led to a recent invitation to write a scholarly article for the prestigious, international academic research journal ZDM — Mathematics Education. ZDM stands for Zentralblatt für Didaktik der Mathematik; the journal is based in Germany. It describes itself this way:

ZDM — Mathematics Education is one of the oldest mathematics education research journals. The papers appearing in the seven themed issues per year are strictly by invitation only followed by internal peer review by the guest-editors and external review by invited experts. The journal exists to survey, discuss and extend current research-based and theoretical perspectives as well as to create a forum for critical analyses of issues within mathematics education. The audience is pre-dominantly mathematics education researchers around the world interested in current developments in the field.”

One of the seven themes for publication in 2021 was a focus on implementation and implementability of mathematics educations research. By “implementation,” they mean the incorporation of research findings into the daily educational practices of teachers. In the letter the three distinguished mathematics education scholars appointed as editors wrote to potential contributors, they wrote:

During the last five decades, the field of mathematics education research has generated a multitude of products, such as theoretical frameworks, concepts, didactic designs, solid findings and more. Although the research community has always been concerned with the theory-practice relationship, it remains an open and challenging problem how such products could be used and implemented in day-to-day mathematics education practice. Since the ultimate raison d’être for mathematics education research is to improve the practice of mathematics teaching and learning, putting research products to use in practice is a highly important undertaking.

Clearly, one important way to implement research findings is by the design of an educational technology product. That was why they approached us. Or more precisely, they approached me (Keith), not directly as a co-founder and active member of BrainQuake, but as a university-based academic. As an academic journal, ZDM could not publish anything that could be seen as endorsing or promoting a commercial product. (Academic books are the only exception to that rule.) So I was asked to write purely from my perspective as an academic researcher, and from that standpoint to describe what was involved in implementing, as a commercial product, research done by me (and the many before me on whose work I drew). It took several in-depth discussions with one of the special issue editors to arrive at a paper that both sides found acceptable.

The result is therefore not a “history of BrainQuake” or of the development of its products, which are the result of a collaborative effort by a highly talented team with diverse areas of expertise. Rather, the focus is skewed heavily toward the process of implementation, viewed from an academic research perspective, and is intended to be read by academic scholars. (Implementation Research is an established academic discipline.) Still, if you are curious about how a research-based, educational technology product for mathematics learning (that looks, feels, and is, an engaging video game) came to be made, you might find it of interest. You will find it here.

For a list of the most significant independent research studies that have been conducted on our learning products, see the Research Page on our website.

– Keith



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