Learning Binary Search Trees Through Serious Games

Authors Alberto Rojas-Salazar , Paula Ramírez-Alfaro , Mads Haahr

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Alberto Rojas-Salazar
  • Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
Paula Ramírez-Alfaro
  • University of Costa Rica, Alajuela, Costa Rica
Mads Haahr
  • Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

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Alberto Rojas-Salazar, Paula Ramírez-Alfaro, and Mads Haahr. Learning Binary Search Trees Through Serious Games. In First International Computer Programming Education Conference (ICPEC 2020). Open Access Series in Informatics (OASIcs), Volume 81, pp. 22:1-22:7, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2020)


Data structures and algorithms are core topics in Computer Science, but they are difficult topics to grasp. Data structures and algorithmic concepts are abstract and difficult to relate to previous knowledge. To facilitate the learning process of these topics, learning tools that link new information with previous knowledge in an active way may be a useful approach to teach data structures and their algorithms. Furthermore, serious games have the potential to serve as a learning tool that accomplishes both objectives: to link new information with previous knowledge and to facilitate active learning. To tackle these issues, we developed DS-Hacker, an action-adventure serious game that utilizes the game elements to represent the Binary Search Tree (BST) properties and structure. In this paper, we report the results of a pilot experiment that compares the learning gains after completing two learning activities: (1) playing a serious game for learning Binary Search Trees, and (2) reading a summary and watching two video tutorials. Additionally, we report the results from a qualitative survey that evaluated the game usability, player satisfaction and the participants' perception about the means used by the game to deliver the BST concepts.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Applied computing → Education
  • Binary Search Tree
  • Data Structures
  • Serious Games


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