Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) K-12 Tech Innovation

Primary Contact Name: 
Caitlin Feeley
Funding Framework: 
Grade Levels: 
5-8
Subjects: 
Math
Availability and Access: 
Freely available on website
Related Topics 
Lure of the Labyrinth introductory video

The Innovation: Lure of the Labyrinth

This online puzzle adventure game promotes middle school students’ math and literacy learning. (Lure of the Labyrinth was developed under a grant from the Institute for Education Sciences awarded to Maryland Public Television, MIT's Education Arcade, and Fablevision.) It embeds math directly into a story line that engages students in an eerie world to prevent monsters’ world domination. Students are never explicitly told that they are doing “math,” but they must solve game puzzles using logic and understanding of the ways numbers work together in order to progress through the game.

The game is divided into three wings, each associated with a different pre-algebra concept:

  • Proportions (including fractions and ratios)
  • Variables and Equations
  • Number and Operations (including geometry, order of operations and modular arithmetic)

Each wing contains three increasingly difficult puzzles presented without any explicit instructions. Students must experiment to figure out how to solve them. Lure of the Labyrinth’s messaging system promotes deeper learning skills by encouraging teammates to correspond with one another and strategize about the game.

Common Core State Standards: Lure of the Labyrinth games aim to improve Common Core proficiency and deeper learning skills, and align with these Grade 5-8 Common Core State Standards.

Using Lure of the Labyrinth in the Classroom
Why teachers use Lure of the Labyrinth in their classrooms

Results Achieved: Technical Education Research Centers (TERC) performed a full evaluation of Lure of the Labyrinth. Highlights of the findings:

  • Students showed high levels of persistence in the face of difficult math puzzles, spending more time on puzzles as they became increasingly sophisticated and complex.
  • Though most posts on the message boards were not related to the game, a high quality of message board posts were associated with high success in the math puzzles.
  • Rewards systems within the game appeared to foster peer-to-peer teaching and collaboration among players.
  • On the easier puzzles, students made clear improvements in their performance across subsequent attempts to complete the puzzle. However, on the more difficult puzzles, students’ seemed either to perform consistently or to subtly decline over subsequent attempts.

Long Term Goal: Lure of the Labyrinth developers—Education Arcade at MIT, Maryland Public Television, and FableVision—will continue to support Lure of the Labyrinth’s availability and its associated support materials, currently hosted on Maryland Public Television’s Thinkport website.

The Grant Project: The Education Arcade at MIT received an NGLC grant in June 2011.

The Education Arcade of MIT used NGLC funding to launch a nationwide contest, the Labyrinth Challenge, to encourage Lure of the Labyrinth’s widespread adoption. Contest promotional efforts targeted:

  • Middle school math, science and technology teachers—especially those in diverse and high need school districts—as teachers were required to enroll students and assign usernames and passwords for participating students
  • State policy makers, professional associations, bloggers, news media, and others that could influence district or school level participation in the Labyrinth Challenge
  • Existing and new Education Arcade at MIT partners
  • Educators’ social media and virtual communities

Promotional efforts secured over 30,000 student accounts, 25,000 of whom actually played at least one puzzle. While the Challenge focused on students in the U.S., viral promotional efforts reached teachers outside of the U.S. including but not limited to Australia, Canada, Qatar, and Singapore.