Students are living and learning in an age of new media – where
they give constant attention to the latest scoop on TV, the hottest music for
their iPods or newest games for their game systems, instantaneous updates in
the online communities and social networks, and, they have mobile apps to
manage all of these interests simultaneously. Students are constantly (an
average of 7.5 hours a day!) interacting with media – more than ANY other
activity besides (maybe) sleeping, according to a popular report, compiled by
the Kaiser Family Foundation.
This age of new media also implies an implication to teaching and
learning. Traditional methods of teaching may not be engaging today's learners
who are used to these interactive platforms. Since these new media forms have
altered how youth socialize and learn, how are we altering how we teach?
teachers and parents have turned to educational games to cater to the interests
of students growing up in this new digital age. They can easily locate free
online games to meet the interests of their students. There are many benefits
to using games as part of math instruction. Some popular reasons are:
Increases curiosity and motivation
a sense of community
a student-centered learning environment
anxiety in the mathematics classroom
for cooperative learning opportunities
Inherently differentiates learning
strategy and reasoning skills
Engages individual learners simultaneously
Teaches life skills
Evaluating Math Games
may jump at the opportunity to use math games as a way to engage today’s
learners, we must still be careful in evaluating them as effective means for teaching and learning. Some
questions that might help you determine the value of a math game follow:
Is there variety in
the mathematical tasks? If you play the same game over, will you be asked
different questions? Are there different pathways to the end?
Are there opportunities to develop strategy while engaging in NCTM’s Process standards – problem solving,
reasoning and proof, communication, connections, and representation?
Is there a combination of chance
and choice in the game? That is, are there both a random component (rolling a
dice, drawing a card) and an opportunity to make a decision?
Is the competition positive and non-threatening?
Is there embedded scaffolding?
If a player gets stuck, are there hints?
Are there suggestions to integrate the game into the classroom?
Are there follow-up questions for teachers? Is there a way for teachers to track
Is the length of play
appropriate for classroom use?
Was the math situated in a meaningful
context? Does the game promote deeper understanding of mathematical
concepts that is meaningful to the student?
Do the students feel empowered and in
control? In other words, do decisions have clear outcomes?
Was clear feedback provided during each turn? Was the computation
of scoring clear?
Does the game encourage social
play? The three C’s of game-playing are: competition, collaboration, and communication.
Even one-player games can spark rich discussion of strategy.