The Race to Nuclear Supremacy: Classroom Games as Motivation for Student Learning




higher education, educational innovation, game-based learning, social studies, nuclear fission, tec 21 educativa model


The use of games in education is applied in classroom settings from all academic levels. More importantly, games can motivate student learning in courses that depend heavily on evaluation and comprehension. The number of digital games available to enhance learning outcomes while motivating student-learning are overwhelming. Nonetheless, access to such content can be costly and limited to academic institutions that lack funds and technology. In this paper, we analyzed how a set of magnetic spheres paired with games motivated student learning in courses across 2 multicultural classrooms (Physics and Social Studies). By designing a session about the atomic bomb in a history course, professors from both History and Physics used a set of small magnetic spheres and Albert Einstein’s equation E=mc2 to complement student learning in a history classroom to comprehend a topic, by using components of the magnetic spheres as an analogy of the nucleus of an atom, where the magnetic force between spheres represents the weak nuclear force. We explained the nuclear fission phenomenon and the history behind this discovery in a more hands-on approach. With this analogy, a game was designed, in which students after having taken a lecture on the history of nuclear fission and an overall explanation of Albert Einstein’s formula, simulated building the atomic nuclei of radioactive elements by adding a pair of neutrons to quantify the energy released when separated as individual particles. After completing the game-based activity, we conducted a series of surveys among students to 1) analyze students’ perception of the learning process during multidisciplinary classes with classroom games and 2) identify attitudes towards subject comprehension through classroom games. The experiment was carried out in sessions of 50 minutes per group. The participants of the case study were students from a private education institution in the northwestern region of Mexico (State of Sonora). We examined how these game-based activities were perceived by the students regarding their motivation to learn. In order to enhance the motivation for student learning, multidisciplinary collaboration should be included in the design process of the curriculum the school offers to its students.