Monday, April 19, 2010

Games Add Elements of Fun,
Much More, to Math Learning

Most math educators know that games aren’t just for fun. They can be powerful teaching tools, too. Playing games at school is an easy way for students to have fun as they learn and exercise valuable math concepts.

Teachers who use games in the classroom point out that they can be used to teach a wide variety of other skills, too. Games help children develop social interaction skills as they teach them to follow directions, take turns, and win and lose gracefully.

A 2008 study out of Carnegie-Mellon University seems to back up the thought that games are a great math instruction tool. The study involved 124 students at ten Head Start centers who played a game called “The Great Race” (a game similar to the popular board game “Chutes & Ladders”). Students who played the game for about 80 minutes over a two-week period improved their ability to count, recognize numbers, and compare and estimate number values.

But games aren’t just for teachers and kids. Parents can get in on this act too.


A second experiment conducted by the same group at Carnegie-Mellon showed a correlation between math achievement and students’ exposure to math games at home.

That second study seems to be one worth sharing with parents in your next newsletter. Provide a news blurb about the study along with a list of some common and inexpensive games to get parents and kids “playing with math” at home. Popular games that teach math skills include:
Candy Land
Chutes & Ladders

While those games can usually be found in local toy stores or online for under $10, parents needn’t spend a penny to play math games at home. Paper-and-pencil math activities are easy to find. Add readily available dice and a deck of playing cards and they will have dozens of math games for at-home play.

“You don’t have to go out and buy fancy games,” says Dr. Carol Copple, a director with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Any game that requires counting and calculation could boost young students’ math ability, she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [read the article].

If parents are looking for a starting point, you might use -- or steer them to -- some of these math game resources.

Math Skills With Dice
Four simple games; one game for reinforcing each of the four basic operations.

Box Cars and One-Eyed Jacks
Thirty-six games using dice or a deck of playing cards. Appropriate grade levels are identified for each game.

Math Puzzles and Games for Kids
A variety of games help parents help kids become successful at math.

Pencil-and-Paper Games for Math Night
Three dot games challenge kids to think mathematically.

Math for the Fun of It
Tips and activities for helping children learn math at home.

Copy and paste one of these activities in each issue of your school-to-home newsletter.

Math Facts: Online Resources
Education World has compiled this list of resources, which proves that
kids + computers = math learning.

For more math resources, be sure to visit Education World’s Math Subject Center.