Games Make Math Fun

Mathematics must be looked at in a positive light to reduce math anxiety. A person’s state of mind has a great influence on his/her success. Many games are based on math concepts. Games are enjoyed by many people who consider themselves not good in math. These games have met several of The National Council of Mathematics Teachers (NCTM) standards. The games included are Life, Yahtzee, Battleship, Tangrams and playing cards. These games meet the NCTM standards which are Mathematics as Problem Solving; Mathematics as Communication; Mathematics as Reasoning; Mathematics as Connections; Number and Number Relationships; Number Systems and Number Theory; Computation and Estimation; Patterns and Functions; Algebra; Statistics; Probability; Geometry; Measurement.

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Parents and teachers can use many of these games in the classroom and home. “Math is potentially great fun, and math skill yields a sense of mastery and self-esteem go math grade 8. The destroyer of the joy in mathematics is not practice but anxiety – anxiety that one is mathematically stupid, that one does not have that special numerical talent. But math talent is no more rare than language talent. The number of great mathematicians and the number of great poets per million of population are roughly the same. Yet people experience math anxiety to a much greater degree than language anxiety. Why? Because their early training has denied them systematic familiarity with the vocabulary, grammar, and spelling of mathematics. Those of us adults who experience math anxiety must resolve not to let this same educational world be inflicted upon our children” (Hirsh). “Children learn best when they are active rather than passive learners” (Spikell).

According to Spikell most learners, whether adults or children, will master mathematical concepts and skills more readily, if they are presented first in concrete, pictorial and symbols. Manipulatives are concrete objects used to teach a concept. By using manipulatives, pictures and symbols to model or represent abstract ideas, the stage is set for learners to understand the abstractions they represent. This along with having fun, games have manipulatives, which help relieve boredom in children allowing them to explore and use their imagination. Games provide a picture of a math concept. Games offer a change from the textbook (abstract) method of teaching/learning, which relieves boredom. A full 88% of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations’ survey respondents said they had passing grades in high school. Asked to name the reasons they had left school, more respondents named boredom than struggles with coursework. Over 1 million students drop out of school each year. That includes nearly half of all African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans who fail to graduate from public high school with their class. Leaving many of them with a host of poor outcomes to follow, from low lifetime earnings to high incarceration rates to a high likelihood that their children will drop out of high school thus eliminating the cycle (Thornburg, 2006).

Games with manipulatives are also valuable with helping students to apply what they learned to the real world, as well as provide a means to improve their math skills interactively. Using board games and card games along with cooperative learning are ways that students can become involved in a positive mathematical environment. Games are highly motivational to students and can be used effectively to practice specific skills. “Using games in the classroom and at home will maximize students’ problem-solving competence, ability to communicate and reason mathematically, perception of the value of mathematics, and self-confidence in their ability to apply mathematical knowledge to new situations.” Cooperative groups provide students a chance to exchange ideas, to ask questions freely, to explain to one another, to clarify ideas in meaningful ways and to express feelings about their learning. These skills acquired at an early age will be greatly beneficial throughout their adult working life.

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