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Using Games Effectively in the Mathematics Classroom

Educational Math Games:

An educational math game is a fun and challenging context in which students interact cooperatively or competitively to achieve a defined goal within a specified set of circumstances while learning or practising identified cognitive, affective or psychomotor skills.

About Math Games:

  • can be used to involve parents, guardians, siblings and other important people in the child's life - can be used to facilitate the house / school connection.
  • promotes a pleasant, enjoyable and challenging environment in the classroom - are usually interesting (at least initialy)
  • can be either cooperative or competitive - some of each is imortant - it is just as important to learn how to loss as it is to learn how to win!
  • can be used to draw connections to a "real life" environment.
  • provides repetition and drill and practice to help achieve automaticity while de-emphasizing procedural skills.
  • often can be linked to manipulatives and thus can be used to help promote understanding.
  • encourages social skills when students work and play together - students begin to value each other as they learn and practice their communication skills.
  • provides variety of instruction, especially when different forms are used (math card games, math board games, action games, manipulative games) in a variety of student groups (solitaire, small groups, large groups.)
  • many games have a strong problem solving component and can be used to either develop or practice problem solving skills and strategies.
  • can be integrated into the actual instructional context - related to objectives and daily goals.

Using Math Games

  • Success: you may wish to avoid promoting winning and losing or at least encourage and reinforce all small successes - games should be success oriented.
  • Vocabulary: encourage students to use the appropriate vocabulary for mathematical ideas, especially when maniulatives are invovled.
  • Relevance: try to use only math games which are content-related to achieve and maintain curricular relevance.
  • Function: consider what function the math game serves - can it be used effectively to introduce a new topic, or is it primarily a practice or application activity?
  • Sequencing: be sure to place games after related content so that studnets are not frustrated.
  • Motivation: decide whether a math game would catch your students' interest before you start - different games work for different classes!
  • Preparation: experiment with a math game with a few students before trying it with the whole class - this will help you decide how best to introduce the game as well as anticipate what difficulties the students will encounter (it also helps you train some useful helpers!)
  • Flexibility: try to collect math games that can be easily adjusted upwards or downwards according to difficulty level - such math games enable you to respond to individual student needs and adapt a game easily for different groups in different classes.
  • Space: consider the space you have available for use, especially if the game requires and amount of moving around be students or large numbers of pieces or manipulatives.

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