Math anxiety is regarded as a worldwide educational problem, and the first pervasive effects can be observed as early as primary school. It hinders academic performance, and fosters a negative perception of maths and math-related activities in children while making them less willing to be involved in contexts where math is present (Luttenberger et al., 2018). In the long run, this translates into an increased avoidance of certain career paths (e.g., STEM-related jobs) and less employment opportunities during adult life.
To date, cognitive tutoring programs have been proven effective in reducing math anxiety because of their twofold purpose. They encourage children to develop math abilities and improve problem-solving skills in a paced manner, while also addressing the anxiety component. Hence, through practice, children become less anxious in math-related contexts, more confident in their abilities and can also develop a favourable perception of mathematics (Superkar et al., 2015).
Technology, via digital game-based learning (DGBL), is sometimes included in these programs, with more interest being shown in the last few years. For an educational game to be successful, it has to be well-designed in terms of curricular relevance, as well as attractive and fun for children to play. Even though there is a variety of educational games available on the computer and smartphones, most of them lack certain essential components, hindering their real-life relevance. Additionally, more research is needed to attest to the effectiveness of digital-based cognitive tutoring in reducing math anxiety, especially in primary-school children.
Since 2017, when we began our collaboration with Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, through the Developmental Psychology Lab (Faculty of Psychology) we have been working as a multidisciplinary team of educational experts, developmental psychologists, and computer scientists to advance the knowledge in technology-aided strategies for reducing math anxiety ( Between 2018 and 2020 we were granted competitive research funding (PN-III-P1-1.1-TE-2016-2170, from CNCS – UEFISCDI), enabling us to make the first steps in creating the conceptual and empirical bases of our project.
We plan to develop and implement a cognitive tutoring program, presented as a web-based game, to reduce math anxiety in primary-school children. Throughout the tutoring sessions, children will be able to improve their math skills and develop new hands-on abilities by learning how to solve exercises and problems of increasing difficulty while being provided with step-by-step feedback, all set in a child-friendly environment. The gamification component is embedded in the program through the game’s narrative and the various achievements obtained while playing the game. This would make the tutoring program less of a task and more of a fun and goal-driven learning experience.
The quest of an intergalactic superhero is to save the galaxy and traveling on different planets, where (s)he has to solve a series of math exercises and problems in order to advance in the game. Each planet is designed to address a specific set of math abilities: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, the unknown factor, etc. Additionally, these exercises can be combined into different subsets that can be further adapted. This would allow schools and teachers to tailor the exercise sets for classroom and individual needs.


Steluța Crișan


Alexandru Costan

Product Development Architect

Simina Cacuci

Research psychologist
Ph.D. Candidate in cognitive science