People of all ages love to play games. In the classroom, they are inherently fun and motivating and engage students in active participation.

Games not only provide opportunities for practice, but also allow students to deepen their mathematical understanding, communication and reasoning. They can be adjusted to allow for varying levels of mastery and can also act as an assessment tool.

In mathematics, games give students opportunities to explore fundamental number concepts, such as the counting sequences and one-to-one correspondence, as well as computation strategies, place value, patterns, and other important concepts.

Engagement

Engagement and motivation are the primary reasons for using games in the classroom. Students freely choose to participate and enjoy playing games and will often request to play mathematics games in their free time. Games provide opportunities for developing positive attitudes towards mathematics, by reducing the fear of failure and error.

Active learning

Through game play, students have an opportunity to be more actively involved in their learning than in more formal learning situations. Social interaction is inherent in games as they stimulate mathematical discussions. Many games also involve kinesthetic movement and activity which further engage students. Games encourage increased interaction between children, opportunities to test intuitive ideas, and collaborative problem solving and strategising.

Practice and feedback

Games can support the development of computational fluency. Students gain exposure to multiple practice opportunities because they are motivated to play games again and again. Students receive immediate feedback through gameplay and can work independently of the teacher. Peers act as experts and can often articulate understanding in a way that assists other students to address missing knowledge and misconceptions in a non-threatening context.

Deep thinking with purpose

Games create an environment that is conducive to learning. Through meaningful situations, students apply the mathematical skills of predicting, testing, generalising, justifying and self-monitoring. They provide a clear purpose and encourage strategic mathematical thinking as students find different strategies for solving problems and deepen their understanding of numbers.

Ability to differentiate

Games allow children to operate at different levels of thinking and to learn from each other. Through simple rule changes and modifications, students with differing abilities and understanding can participate, learn and succeed. In a game situation, these modifications can be made as a demonstration of fairness rather than a judgement on progress or intellect.

Assessment

Games expose student thinking through the statements, actions and decisions they make as they play. They provide an invaluable insight into how students think, reason and manipulate numbers. As many games can be played independent of teacher intervention, teachers are released to carry out diagnosis and assessment of learning in a non-threatening situation. Through observation, teachers can use games to make assessment judgements with individuals or small groups of students.

Open the Numbeanies Games Box…

Numbeanies is a collection of card games with teacher support designed to develop students’ number sense, fluency and thinking strategies, covering early numeracy concepts from Kindergarten through to Year 2. Learn more about Numbeanies here.

References

Bragg, Leicha. (2003). Children’s perspectives on mathematics and game playing. In Mathematics education research: innovation, networking, opportunity: proceedings of the 26th annual conference of the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia, Deakin University, MERGA Inc, Pymble, pp 160-7.

Davies, B. (1995). The role of games in mathematics. Square One 5(2).

Rutherford, K. (2015). Why Play Maths Games? National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Retrieved 1 February 2018, from http://www.nctm.org/publications/teaching-children-mathematics/blog/why-play-math-games