What’s the math in Minecraft? A Design‑Based Study of Students’ Perspectives and Mathematical Experiences Across game and School Domains


  • Erik Ottar Jensen
  • Thorkild Hanghøj


Minecraft, game-based learning, mathematics education, domain theory, coordinate system


This paper presents empirical findings from a qualitative study on Minecraft as a mathematical tool and learning environment. Even though Minecraft has been used for several years in classrooms around the world, there is a lack of detailed empirical studies of how students learn subject‑related content by working with the game. This study is based on a design experiment with an inquiry‑based teaching unit for fifth graders, which focused on using the coordinate system embedded in Minecraft, as a means to navigate and explore the game in order to solve mathematical problems. Based on student interviews, we explore how the students experienced and switched to new perspectives on mathematical knowledge through their participation in the teaching unit. Using thematic analysis, we explore data from six group interviews. The theoretical framework is based on domain theory, dialogical theory and notions of students’ mathematical agency. The key analytical findings regard the students’ experience of the coordinate system as part of both the academic domain of mathematics and their everyday domain of playing Minecraft, how they actively use the coordinate system to improve play in Minecraft and how they experience new ways of participating in mathematics. The article concludes by offering design principles for the future use of computer games in mathematics education.



1 Jul 2020