For math teachers, playing games in the classroom allows students to have fun, while learning. The following looks at mathematical games such as the coolmath4kids series and their benefits, as well as types of games to play and how teachers can create their own. If you are a math teacher, it is time to make classroom time both educational and fun.
An Introduction to Mathematical Games
To be considered a mathematical game, it should:
- require two or more players who take turns and compete with the objective of winning a challenge,
- have a set of rules and a clear underlying structure,
- have a concrete ending point,
- include mathematical cognitive objectives.
Benefits of Math Games
Per available research summarized by Davies, some of the top benefits associated with playing math games include:
A greater opportunity for learning: Due to enhanced interaction between peers, as well as chances to engage in problem solving strategies and test intuitive ideas, games offer more learning opportunities than more formal activities.
Improved assessments: Games give teachers a unique way of assessing a student’s way of thinking in a non-threatening situation.
Motivation: Students who are choose to participate and enjoy the games they are playing are more motivated to learn skills in order to win.
Enhanced attitude: Students who play games are able to build their self-concept and develop a positive attitude toward math because their fear of error and failure is often reduced.
Independence in home and school: Games can be played both at school and home. Additionally, students are often motivated to stay on task because they are having fun while learning.
Allows students to learn from each other: When playing games, you can put students at different levels of learning together with positive results. For example, a student who is just being introduced to the concept can learn from another student who is working to better develop their understanding of the concept, who can in turn learn from a third student who is consolidating concepts they previously learned.
Decreased language barriers: Games are played in all cultures and include a basic structure, which non-English speaking students tend to quickly pick up on simply by observing what is taking place. In many cases, they will go ahead and participate because they have a basic understanding of what is expected.
Types of Games to Play in the Math Classroom
There are plenty of different game formats to choose from, allowing teachers to choose what best meets their learning needs. For example:
Races: With racing games, the goal is to reach the finish point first. This is deal for working on rote learnt skills, such as reciting number facts or basic counting. It can also be used to focus on specific math skills, such as a probability game.
Spatial strategy games: This involves moving pieces around a board strategically with the goal of blocking or capturing an opponent.
Board games: Moving around a board, such as Monopoly, allows students to build toward their goal. In most cases, this is best used in the classroom when the game is adapted to include puzzles and problems.
Numerical strategy games: With this type of game, the objective usually involves removing pieces to achieve a goal, such as Mancala.
Arithmetical Games: Typically these games involve an element of change and include the use of dice, cards, or targets.
Matching games: Ideal for learning basic skills, this game usually involves turning over cards to locate pairs, such as Memory.
Mystery games: Intended to stimulate strategy thinking and mathematical skill development, this includes games like Twenty Questions.
Basic strategy games: Strategy games are perfect for practicing and consolidating concepts and skills that have already been learned, as well as for use in mathematical investigations. Students will work to develop a winning strategy by analyzing the outcome of “moves.” NIM is a good example because students apply math skills, as well as manipulate variables, transform information, look for patterns, hypothesis, and even test their ideas.
Creating Your Own Math Games
While there are a variety of math learning games already available for students, teachers have the opportunity to create their own games to fit the specific mathematical objectives their class is working on. If you aren’t even sure where to start in regards to creating your own classroom games, here are several tips designed to help you.
Borrow an existing game’s rules. Then, change out the materials used or even add more materials. For example, everyone is familiar with the card game “Go Fish.” Instead of the traditional way of playing, create a pack of cards that includes addition facts your class is practicing. Create a set of cards with the facts and another set with the answers. If a student has a “2 + 3 =” card, he or she will need to ask the other players for a “5” card. If a student has a “5” card, he can ask others for any variation, such as “4 + 1 =” or “5 + 0 =”.
Use a game board and incorporate math tasks into it. If you have a Checkers or Chutes and Ladder board that is missing any pieces (or any other game board for that matter), take it, make up a few new rules, and add in some math. For example, use an old Chutes and Ladder board and color the spaces. Create color coded cards that include quiz-like questions. If they get the answer correct, they get to advance, but if not, they stay in place.
Allow your students to come up with games. Let your students use their creativity to create new math games of their own. Just be sure they understand what parameters it should meet.
Evaluating Your New Game
- To determine if your game is ideal for classroom play, answer the following questions.
- Does it match your math goals?
- Are there strategies incorporated to improve the chances of winning?
- Can the game be played in the allotted classroom time?
- Can the game be used for a range of abilities?
- Do your students enjoy playing it? (If not, ask them why and make any necessary changes.)