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A helpful guide to learning...

Math through games Nathan McCarthy - David Feddema - Jessica Strydhorst

Games help children learn through active and fun

WHY USE GAMES? engagement. They serve to relieve students of the stress and
anxieties classroom environments may create, as well as
increase camaraderie and morale amongst the children.

Meaningful situations - for the application of mathematical skills are created by games
Motivation - children freely choose to participate 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.
A helpful guide to learning...

Math through games

Example Game #1: Cribbage
Strand: Number sense and Numeration, Data Management and Probability, Patterning and Algebra

Grade levels: 4-6 depending on the variation

- There are many different variations that can alter the strategy and thinking of those playing
- Cribbage emphasizes using numbers over and over again in different ways to make sums
- It can be played with 2+ players all at the same time so turns are had frequently
- The cards give an element of chance that help beginners build skill and confidence
- Counting points can be done by anyone playing the game, to help those who have trouble
- The length of the game can be shortened to fit into any time period
- It can be a quiet game that can be played in between other activities
- All of the childrens thinking during cribbage can be recorded by the students and
assessed/observed during or after play
- Cribbage has few language barriers
- The scoreboard and counters can be replaced with homemade paper versions
- Students can be taught how to
- Some of the basic rules of the game can be confusing
- The procedure of the game can be tricky to remember
- There are some small pieces if played with the actual board that can be lost
- May be too advanced for grade 4, better for grade 6 and up

A helpful guide to learning...

Math through games

Example Game #2: online Racing
Strand: Number Sense and Numeration (Place Value, Comparing Decimals, Rounding Decimals,
Properties of Operations), Patterning and Algebra (One Step Equations)

Grade levels: 4 - 6

- Implements technology into the classroom, allowing students to use their personal devices
- Students able to develop quick thinking skills
- Motivating: Students want to beat the game, therefore it may encourage them to study
- Engaging: Students are learning in a fun environment, feels more like play than learning
- Allows students to work independently: can choose to share results or not, and can expand
activity to their home.
- Potential distractions of implementing personal devices into the classroom
- Does not allow time for students to follow steps and work out problems
- Requires internet access. If servers are down, activity is not possible
- Excludes students who may not have device

A helpful guide to learning...

Math through games

Example Game #3: Dice games
Game: Classify It!

Strand: Number sense and Numeration (Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, converting
fractions, decimals and percentages, equivalent & improper fractions, comparing fractions)

Grade levels: 4-6

- Motivating and Engaging
- Teaches math vocabulary
- Skill and Luck based game
- Requires only these sheets and dice
- As many players as you want
- Can be single player, work to beat their own personal record time.
- Can be manipulated to whatever a teacher wants to focus on just by changing labels
- Has alternative strategies available for struggling/excelling learners by using different number
sided dice - the more sides the dice has, the more challenging
- Requires sheet to go along with it
- May get competitive and need supervision

A helpful guide to learning...

Math through games

Example Game #4: Physical Games
Game: Counting Circle & Buzz Counting
Strand: Number Sense & Numeration
Grade Levels: 4-6
- These games have the entire class involved at once
- They improve basic counting skills in a group setting
- They builds community within the class by having them work towards a goal
- They also incorporates the physical education curriculum and can fulfill DPA recommendations
- Both of these games can start off very simple and progress to get more difficult
- Counting Circle may be a little simple on its own
- Buzz Counting may be too difficult for the lower grades
- Both games require a lot of space and are best done outside or in a gymnasium
Reference: Counting on Fun: Multiple Games for Sum Fun - Andy Raithby (CIRA Ontario)

1. Multiple format Math games:
2. Cribbage Variations -
3. Book: Davies, B. (1995). The role of games in mathematics. Square One . Vol.5. No. 2
4. Multiplication Bingo (w/ Lesson Plan) -
5. Online Games (w/ Lesson Plan) -
6. Math Play: Free Online Math Games (Laptop, IPhone, IPad):
7. Dice and Card Games: