The research behind First In Math

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In 1988, Robert Sun embarked on a journey to encourage students from diverse backgrounds to engage in math education by developing the 24® Game, leveraging play to teach number relationships. Fast forward to 2002 — the dawn of widespread internet access — Sun introduced First In Math, an online program designed to make math practice effective and engaging through evidence-based strategies.

Today, First In Math boasts more than 200 games covering various math skills and concepts, progressively challenging learners as they gain competence and confidence in math. With a curriculum spanning basic addition to complex algebra, the program's success lies in its ability to address two common barriers faced by learners: math anxiety and lack of factual and procedural fluency. First in Math enhances learning experiences by incorporating evidence-based approaches in at least four ways:

  1. The gamification of math practice aligns with research1 indicating reduced anxiety and increased engagement among students who play math games. Offering both collaborative and independent digital gameplay provides flexibility while aligning with existing evidence.
  2. First In Math's patented VIF (Very Important Facts) strategy reduces the number of facts students need to learn by memorization, promoting automaticity and efficient computation. The integrated approach of explicit strategy instruction and practice is informed by research2 demonstrating that such an approach has previously improved math scores in the short and long term. 
  3. The program also offers diverse modes of practice (individual, collaborative, and competitive) supporting student learning and enjoyment of the learning experience. This approach recognizes findings from previous research3 which found that while competition boosts performance and motivation, collaboration fosters enjoyment and mastery-oriented goals.
  4. First In Math games that reinforce factual, procedural, and conceptual fluency are complimented by explicit instruction through mini-lessons, particularly for upper-elementary school years, and have been noted to be an effective and popular pedagogic approach by prior research4.

In conclusion, the evidence-based features of First In Math support significant outcomes for students, teachers, and administrators alike. Such outcomes are validated through anecdotal evidence from school administrators and independent studies and evaluations. From increased proficiency and engagement to improved test scores and career readiness, the program paves the way for a brighter educational future.



[1] Dondio, P., Gusev, V., & Rocha, M. (2023). Do games reduce maths anxiety? A meta-analysis. Computers & Education, 194, 104650

[2] Woodward, J. (2006). Developing automaticity in multiplication facts: Integrating strategy instruction with timed practice drills. Learning Disability Quarterly, 29(4), 269–289.

[3] Plass, J. L., O'Keefe, P. A., Homer, B. D., Case, J., Hayward, E. O., Stein, M., & Perlin, K. (2013). The impact of individual, competitive, and collaborative mathematics game play on learning, performance, and motivation. Journal of educational psychology, 105(4), 1050.

[4] Kacmaz, G., & Dubé, A. K. (2022). Examining pedagogical approaches and types of mathematics knowledge in educational games: A meta-analysis and critical review. Educational Research Review, 35, 100428.