Engagement is at the core for deep learning to occur. Research on Brain Based Learning tells me that students learn more when they are emotionally engaged.
Which does a better job of engaging the learner, math games or worksheets?
#1 Games build fluency
- Games provide opportunities for meaningful fluency practice necessary for our students to master. Fluency includes efficiency, accuracy, and flexibility with strategies not just speed. Games can meet all these areas.
- Timed Tests/worksheets are popular in classrooms instead of games to build fluency. This article says it all. Timed Tests-NCTM
#2 Math Games meet the needs of Diverse Learners
- Worksheets come in one size fits all. However, games can be adjusted to meet more than one level. I do this easily by changing the digits in the game that students are working with.
- In a division game I will have two versions, one with 2-digit divisors and one with a 1-digit divisors.
- I print out my games in different colors: green for extended, blue for on level and yellow for below level. This helps me have them ready to go.
#3 Games Encourage Mathematical Reasoning
- Games can create a context for developing students’ mathematical reasoning. I encourage my students to talk the math while playing, and with practice they become naturals. This isn’t a focus of a worksheet.
- Partners justify their reasons behind their moves.
- Through playing games, students examine strategies that are most efficient and least efficient.
- “Post game” instruction is critical, planning questions that prompt students’ reflection and exploration of their reasoning.
Here are a few good questions to ask:
- What skill did you practice?
- Which strategies did you use?
- Next time you play what strategies would you use to be more successful?
#4 Games are Engaging
Another benefit for math games is increased student engagement. Rarely are worksheets engaging.
- Games maintain interest.
- Games keep kids minds active and engaged in game playing.
- Practicing skills is critical for students to master math concepts and skills, and games are the best way I have found to make it happen.
- Students enjoy working orally, no written work to worry about.
- Students are too busy thinking of their next move instead of worrying about how much work they are actually doing.
- Games often give students a purpose for their work.
#5 Games are Open-Ended and Encourage Strategic Thinking
- Games allow students to decide which strategy they prefer to use. They can look into their own bank of strategies and decide which one is most efficient for that skill. Worksheets are usually focused on one strategy.
- Partners can suggest strategies and offer help to their partner when they are stuck. This increases problem solving abilities and deepens their understanding in numbers. I have seen this repeated many times in my classroom and love this.
#6 Games Promote Positive Attitudes Toward Math
- Games provide motivation to a reluctant mathematician. Worksheets do not.
- Children love games, they are excited to participate and are motivated to do the math. Students don’t love worksheets.
- Games reduce the fear of failure and error in mathematics. The deliberating fear factor in math is gone, no grades here. Worksheets are graded.
#7 Extra Benefits of Games
- Games provide opportunities for building self-concept, teamwork, social interaction, cooperation, and effective communication. All important skills for our students. Worksheets do not build these skills.
Did you decide?
Even if your curriculum doesn’t include games, try one. Look for a game that aligns with the standard you are working on. I promise your students will be more engaged then a workbook page.
My Favorite Math Game resources
- K-5 Teaching Resources- Find your grade level and standard.
- Georgia Math–Go to your grade level, then the standard you are working on; there are great games in each unit.
- North Carolina Elementary Math Games -Go to your grade level, and then find games.