I have always thought that Math board games are fun. They are a nice change from rote memorization and a good way to increase interest of math as a fun and interesting subject. Teaching a group of children right after school is a reason why I use the board games very often and math board games as well such as, monopoly, jenga, apples to apples, chess, uno cards etc,
I picked those since they have mathematics involved in their structure, practical strategies or analysis of the game results.
What I would like to point out in this blog is that even though they are games we can bring our professional knowledge by asking them to reason. Every time when they play the games I am there only to ask them to explain their choices or open discussions so they can verbalize their strategies or listen to others' strategies that they might have never heard of before. After that, a couple of children start to ask their friends about the strategies as well but a day after they tend to forget. But we know that practice and repetition strengthen their understanding. So, I keep repeating the questions and sometime I stop them in the middle of the game using “freeze” game and ask them what they think is going to happen, is there a reason why Ben put nr. 9 down (Playing cards), which way is shorter to climb up that ladder, how many times are you going to throw the dice so you can reach the top of the tree (Chutes and ladders), what are the options for Zack to land on your property, why do you use large or small bills to change a $ 25 bill (Monopoly)and so on.
The children love it because is fun, they are socializing with friends, they have time to think, the conversation and sometimes the debate is natural that makes them reflect on their own thinking.
I know that there are cons about board games such as, too competitive or I had a parent who said "playing cards teaches them how to gamble" or “my kid doesn't learn anything in school because all he does is play games” and I have my own cons as I mentioned in the beginning about Monopoly game. However, these cons and more are the reasons why those games should be played at home and school more often, so, the parents and the teachers are there to provide and create environments that make children think, solve problems,increase their arithmetic skills,calculate, challenge their understanding and have fun other than exposing them with the negative sides of the board games.
Here I have this paragraph from Paul Bryn Davies which I have it displayed on the wall all the time and also, I keep extra copies so I can give it to the parents(if they ask) to read about the benefits of the games.
Benefits of Using Games in the Classroom
In the article “The Role of Games in Mathematics” Bryn Davies summarizes the advantages of using games in the math classroom. (Davies, 1995)
- Meaningful situations - The application of mathematical skills are created by games.
- Motivation - Children freely choose to participate in games and enjoy playing.
- Positive attitude - Games provide opportunities for building self-concept and developing positive attitudes towards mathematics, through reducing the fear of failure and error.
- Increased learning - In comparison to more formal activities, greater learning can occur through games due to the increased interaction between children, opportunities to test intuitive ideas and problem solving strategies.
- Different levels - Games can allow children to operate at different levels of thinking and to learn from each other. In a group of children playing a game, one child might be encountering a concept for the first time, another may be developing his/her understanding of the concept, a third consolidating previously learned concepts.
- Assessment - Children's thinking often becomes apparent through the actions and decisions they make during a game, so the teacher has the opportunity to carry out diagnosis and assessment of learning in a non-threatening situation.
- Home and school - Games provide 'hands-on' interactive tasks for both school and home.
- Independence - Children can work independently of the teacher. The rules of the game and the children's motivation usually keep them on task.
- Few language barriers - an additional benefit becomes evident when children from non-English-speaking backgrounds are involved. The basic structures of some games are common to many cultures, and the procedures of simple games can be quickly learned through observation. Children who are reluctant to participate in other mathematical activities because of language barriers will often join in a game, and so gain access to the mathematical learning as well as engage in structured social interaction.
So, let's play because I love math board games, too!