I have a confession to make; I really, really, don’t like math.
Even as a child I struggled to find enthusiasm for the subject. While other students marveled at the wonders of calculation and graphing, I doodled in the margins of my notebook. This, naturally, would come back to bite me later in life. Tools and computers make me a competent mathematician, but let’s just say you wouldn’t want me balancing your accounts.
Recently though, I was able to sharpen my math skills with help from a new game. My family are avid gamers. One of them introduced a new card game which encourages players to take on a mathematic mindset. While the process was difficult, the gameplay was engaging, and I soon found myself performing greater calculations then ever before. This experience helped reaffirm a truth I’ve heard from many experienced educators: the way to help someone learn is with a game!
Stocking Up Over Summer
As teachers begin to plan for the fall, it’s important to consider all the tools and resources at our disposal. Games can be a useful edition to any classroom. Research shows that using games not only increases student participation, but it can also foster social and emotional learning and motivate students to try new things. This is particularly helpful when you have a student who simply refuses to engage with the subject matter (like me). So, if you’re searching for some fun, interactive games that will get students invested in learning, consider trying one of the following:
- The Game (Grades 4-12): This simple card game is all about numbers and cooperation. Players need to discard all 98 cards in the deck onto four discard piles in order to win. However, they need to do so in the right ways. As I mentioned earlier, this game is great for getting math-averse students to participate. They’ll need to calculate the remaining cards if they hope to stay ahead. Where this game really shines though is in its social-emotional learning. Rather that compete against each other, players must work together and communicate effectively if they hope to win.
- Scrabble (Grades 4-12): This classic game is ideal for building up student language, vocabulary, and spelling. Scrabble is the ultimate crossword game in which every letter counts. One strategy is to introduce this game after a vocabulary lesson and award bonus points for any correctly spelled words you’ve been studying. For example, if students have been learning the word “bombastic”, they get an extra +5 points for spelling it out correctly and supplying the correct definition.
- Wingspan (Grades 5-12): Looking to teach your students about nature, food chains, and habitats? In Wingspan, you play as a bird enthusiast and your goal is to attract birds to your aviary. There are a total of 170 birds in the game and each has their own card, complete with accurate illustrations, diets, fun facts, and, of course, their wingspans. This game is perfect for the budding birdwatcher in your class. Better still, it can help your students better understand the basics of ecology. You can even tie the game into Blue Apple’s State of Sustainability and have students find which birds are native to their home state!
- Chess (Grades 5-12): The grandfather of all academic games, chess has been used throughout history to help students master special awareness and problem-solving skills. But chess can do more than simply teach students about strategy. According to Edutopia, “Research conducted by the St. Louis Chess Club showed that 72 percent of students polled believe chess made them more confident with learning challenges; 75 percent of those same students also felt chess motivated them to seek out more difficult opportunities.” It’s hard to think of a better way to inspire curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking.
What’s summer vacation without a little fun and games? As you make your preparations for the new semester, take some time to test out these games and discern which would be best for your classroom. If you find yourself learning while getting invested in a fun, hands-on activity, there’s a good chance that your students will too!