Games make learning anything a much easier process. Rather than repetitive practice that can lead to complacency, using games to reinforce concepts will help keep things moving in the right direction. When learning new arithmetic concepts, for example, some simple math games can do wonders for retaining the information. With a few easy-to-find props, like dice and a deck of cards, math games are not only super simple, but fun!
How to Get Started
When using math games to explain core concepts, such as addition and subtraction, you can begin with solo games. Beat-the-clock games are great for this; since your child is only competing against a time limit, he or she won’t feel left out if friends are capable of performing the math faster. Math games such as Make Ten, where each player is dealt 12 cards and needs to add or subtract pairs of cards to create a total of ten, can be both a solo game as well as a multi-player competition.
If your child has developed math skills to the point where these solo games are becoming easy, then it’s time to add competition between friends! Remind the players that even if they are not the overall winner, they’ve still done a great job solving math problems in the game. Don’t intentionally “stack the deck” if there is a child who is at a lower level than another player, but feel free to lend help in the form of hints to keep the game moving and avoid frustration.
The overall goal of using math games, beyond reinforcing math concepts, is to make it fun for everyone! If a child is struggling in competition with other players, it may be time to step back to a one-player game. On the other hand, if a child has mastered concepts ahead of the other players, you may need to find a way to challenge that child more so than the others. For instance, in the Make Ten game, you could ask him or her to use at least two groups of three cards to total ten.
Why Math Games Work So Well
Arithmetic can be quite dry and boring if only done with worksheets and times tables. Games can be a great motivating factor in other areas at home, such as cleaning up or other chores, so why not use them for learning math as well? A child may not enjoy spending time doing homework with lines of addition and subtraction problems, but if you take the exact same problems and turn them into a game, the mindset of homework is out of the equation.
Racing a clock or other competitors makes for a great motivational tool to master concepts. Friendly competition where everyone is rewarded for completing tasks keeps the gameplay not only fair, but interesting for the children competing as well. As long as the game remains interesting, kids will be excited to play! Math concepts that adults take for granted, such as 5+3=8, or 7-1=6, are still new to children just introduced to math. By turning these lessons into math games instead of just math problems, your child will begin to notice patterns and have fun while learning.
As mentioned before, the entire goal of math games is to make learning fun. This requires that you keep an eye on whether the concepts are too hard or too easy for everyone participating. Frustration because a child is not fully grasping a specific concept, or complacency because things are too easy, will reduce the impact and fruitfulness of playing math games. As long as you’re monitoring the game to keep everything in balance for the entire group, everyone will be a winner!
Photo by Rex Pe