Because math skills can be difficult to learn through only traditional worksheets and drills, teachers can switch things up to engage students through games. According to a study by Harvard's Allen Lai, gamifying math has the potential to promote student learning beyond the textbook. Gaming encourages self-initiated learning and creative inquiry and fosters a sense of teamwork while teaching students to solve problems collaboratively.
Games promote strategic thinking and give students opportunities to learn in a low-stakes setting. Furthermore, using math games enables students to build these skills both inside and outside of the classroom. They can play games with teachers and peers in school and then bring the same activities home to practice their skills.
Teachers must be careful in choosing games for the math classroom, however. The best ones challenge students just enough to make them think without frustrating them to the point of giving up. Below are some ideas and resources for math games that you can adapt to your students' abilities and needs.
Repurpose Popular Games
Many board, boxed and card games lend themselves to adaptation for classroom use. Uno, for instance, works as a movement-based math game, given its number-color format. Students label colors with an action (jump, stomp, clap, etc.) and then draw cards to determine which action to take, counting along the way. Did you draw a blue 8? Jump 8 times!
Many other popular games on the market are suited to building math skills as well. Students can practice equation skills in a fun and silly way using Twister. All you have to do is assign a value to each color, and then call out equations instead of colors. Students must figure out the answer to the equation to discover where to move their hand or foot. Teachers can adapt these and many other math games for use with kinesthetic, spatial and interpersonal learners.
Matific is an online gaming platform also available as an app on a variety of mobile devices. It offers fun and challenging math activities for students of all ages and allows them to work at their own pace. The goal of Matific is to reduce anxiety and improve retention through discovery-based problem solving and critical thinking.
The most convenient feature, however, is Matific's progress tracking function. This integrated reporting tool allows teachers to see which students need more practice with specific concepts and assign games accordingly. This platform offers a free trial.
Looking for more options? Education.com has an extensive list of online math games organized by grade, subject matter, and skill.
Use What You Already Have in the Classroom
If you don't have access to games, all you really need to gamify math is a classroom of willing students and some fun tools to make up your own games. Scholastic offers a wide variety of in-classroom games that require little to no resources. Take "Simon Says Geometry," for instance. Students make angles with their arms and legs based on what Simon requests, challenging them to visualize the types of angles and convey them to others. No supplies necessary.
You can also try "Priceless Verse," a game that uses Shel Silverstein's poetry to teach students how to count money. With each verse of Silverstein's "Smart," students exchange money according to each stanza. For example,
With each transaction, students determine how much money they've lost or gained. Teachers can ramp up the difficulty level as appropriate and even have students calculate percentages and probabilities.
These are just a few ideas for using games to engage and challenge students. Earning a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Math from Southeastern Oklahoma State University will broaden your knowledge of:
- Research-based practices for mathematics teachers
- Methods and resources for actively engaging students in learning and affording them the opportunity to build knowledge out of their experiences
- Methods of enhancing students' critical thinking and problem-solving skills
- Knowledge of curricular standards for alignment of learning objectives and lessons
The online format of Southeastern's M.Ed. program makes it convenient for educators to earn the degree while continuing to work.
Sources:Scholastic: 15 Math Games in 15 Minutes or Less
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