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Parents Ask About Playing Games in Math Class

Not too long ago a parent said to me, “My child tells me that he plays games during math class. How will games help my child become better at math?” It was a legitimate question and one that teachers need to be prepared to address.

I’ve been teaching math to children for many years, and I’ve found that math games are, from a teacher’s point of view, wonderfully useful and very effective. Games provide an enjoyable venue for the repeated practice necessary for mastering many basic skills. When carefully selected, games can highlight specific mathematics concepts, activate strategic thinking, and create an opportunity to develop logical reasoning skills. And games can help children learn almost everything they need to master in elementary math. Once I began to use games regularly during math time, I was amazed at the many benefits to be had while having fun!

The value of games should not be underestimated. Depending on the game, the type of learning can vary. Some games allow students to practice skills, such as performing arithmetic operations with efficiency and accuracy. Other games encourage the development of concepts and strategic thinking, requiring students to make predictions, deliberate about possible outcomes, solve problems, and experiment with new strategies. All of them offer the potential of connecting to what is being studied in elementary school mathematics.

The teacher needs to know what essential skills and knowledge are involved in any game. A discussion of the game will help students recognize the skills and knowledge needed, which is essential. In addition, the teacher can assess understanding of concepts and levels of skills by observing and listening to students as they play.

Games can engage and motivate students. The hands-on nature makes the game, and the learning associated with it, more concrete. Students who participate in games often perform more mathematics than when using traditional dittos or worksheets. Participation and practice build confidence.

In addition to improving mathematics abilities and increasing thinking and reasoning skills, games can also help develop social skills. Students must take turns, follow rules, play fairly, pay attention, listen to and learn from others, be persistent, and learn from their mistakes. Can that be said for a worksheet?

Give games a try. You might be surprised at what you discover!

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