Using board games to teach mathematics

Jan 29 / Bhavani Pallothu

Why gamification?

Gamification adds the motivation factor, to a student’s learning. It add pedagogical value in education, as games are dynamic and challenge students in a stimulating ways, especially students between ages 15-18 years old.

The term “game-based learning” refers to the integration of a game, and/or game elements in the teaching process to achieve pre-established educational results. Teachers can use this approach in the classroom, by adapting a well-known games such as Monopoly, Ludo, Snakes and Ladders or any similar board game, which the students would be familiar with.
What are the learning objectives?
Game-based learning activities serve as ‘ice-breakers’ and can be adopted in any introductory lesson in every STEM subject. Teachers can chose to use it while approaching a new topic the students will learn, and they can set pre-determined focus of the lesson; a few examples can be:

  1. Encourage students to explain what the Climate change means for the students
  2. Recognise the different aspects of climate change
  3. Enable student with the ability to compare different solutions, their pros and cons.

Having said that, the learning objectives expand beyond students attaining new academic knowledge. Since many board games used for these game-based lessons are originally designed for 4 players, they perfectly suit the group participation principle of 4 to 5 participants based on the modern pedagogical practice. Hence, by playing in teams, the students will also practice different skills contributing towards their personal or social development, such as critical thinking, collaboration and communication. Students develop collaboration with their peers, forming connections between their traits and behaviours that can promote respect and affect their acceptance. Students will become more confident and learn to believe in their personal potential.
Designing a game-based lesson concept
I am sharing an example, to help teachers to integrate game-based learning in the classroom, using the game ‘Plus Minus Cross’ and using it to introduce and explain the concept of Fractions and ratio. The original ‘Plus Minus Cross’ game is an easy, educational fun game which teaches children basic mathematical operations of addition, subtraction and multiplication in the most unique yet simple way. It contains:
  • 1 game board, 3 dice, 4 pawns, 64 cover chips, Instructions
  • 96 numerical operator tiles - 4 coloured sets of 24 numerical tiles consisting of 8 numbers each of addition, multiplication and subtraction.
  • 2-4 players can play the game.

Adapting the game and assessment to the pre-set outcomes.

Teachers can ask their students to imagine the game board as a market place for fractions and ratios. In the original game, player try to create a mathematical operation using the numbers after rolling the dice to get the highest possible number or one of the numbers available in the inner square. In the imaginary game, teachers can assign few facts or information for each number on the inner square and display them near the game board. Every time a number is formed and a token is placed on the number, the respective fact or information about the topic students are learning should be read out by the player and every player notes down this fact or information, this continues till the game ends. As a result children collect useful data about the topic.

At the end of the game, the students are encouraged to present their summary of the lesson. It will be interesting for the students as the facts discovered and the order in which they are uncovered changes with each attempt of the game.
Introducing the content to the students in this method, will give them an alternative approach alongside the original or traditional approach, and this adds pedagogical value and encourages the social skill development in the students.

To make the game more interesting, the game winner can be elected to lead the class for the next class, encouraging the student to prepare in advance for the next class, and they can also engage the class in the game while adding more facts and data to the list.

For more interesting articles on math board games, check the below mentioned sites:

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