When I first started to work on the use of math games in the classroom, I was amazed at what I began to see happening! Here are a few of my discoveries about games where children can learn and practice math:
- Many of the games lead students to talk mathematics.
- Games forced students to justify their reasoning.
- Games put pressure on players to work mentally.
- Games did not define the way in which a problem had to be solved or worked out.
- Students began to explore and learn new strategies by working and talking with each other as they played.
- A game could often be played at more than one level allowing the teacher to differentiate instruction.
Games and Assessment
Teachers who observe and interact with children while they are playing math games can diagnose a wide variety of their mathematical strengths and weaknesses. In assessing learning through math games, teachers' concerns are not just confined to the children's levels of factual knowledge. Rather, they may also note, record, and analyze the following:
- reasoning and problem-solving skills,
- the forms of children's responses,
- the processes that children employ in solving problems and arriving at answers,
- children's patterns of persistence and curiosity, and
- their ability to work with peers, adults, and a variety of resources.
In addition, the recording sheets that children produce while playing games can be placed in assessment portfolios, where they can be of great value to children, teachers, and parents.
Finally, games provide children with a powerful way of assessing their own mathematical abilities. The immediate feedback children receive from their peers while playing games can help them evaluate their mathematical concepts and algorithms and revise inefficient, inadequate, or erroneous ones.
Good games evaluate children's progress. They provide feedback so that teachers, parents, and the child know what they have done well and what they need to practice.
"Family Maths is based on repeatable activities which are played by families. Usually a school, church group or cultural group invites a facilitator to run a session to introduce the games and then the families take copies of the games/activities home so that they can be played a number of times, problem-solving, thinking about strategies talking maths.
A week or two later another session is held and further games and activities are taught, with reflection on successes or otherwise of the previous ones.
Ideally 4 sessions should be held as this gives families a bank of activities to play/experiment with on a regular basis.
One New Zealand School introduced "Maths Back Packs" These were reasonably cheap 'Back Packs' each with a repeatable math activity/game inside. The students were assigned a Maths Back Pack for a week and when they were returned Parent Volunteers checked to make sure the game board and playing pieces were there or replaced ready for the next student to take home.
The attitude change by students, towards maths, is so noticeable to teachers and the community. The games are not the sometimes boring traditional maths skill type practice or learning but activities that were fun, enjoyable, problem based and challenging."
Consider introducing games as a 'Home-School' activity instead of the usual homework activities and say to the students, "this is homework for you and your parents to play together and then to report back about how you enjoyed them and what mum and/or dad thought about this 'homework'?"