Gamification is a large trend in education right now. More and more frequently, teachers are using a natural way that students learn, through play, to inspire kids to learn new content. As Ruteledge (2012) explains, “the thought of a video game still may strike horror into the hearts of many, but videogames are just a digital manifestation of a very basic human behavior: play.” Games are a great way for content to become more open-ended and inquiry-driven.
Way (2011) cites the following as further reasons math games are effective in the classroom:
- Games create a meaningful context for learning math.
- Students are motivated and have a more positive attitude about math.
- Students have increased opportunities for practice and individualized learning.
- Teachers have more assessment data about students progress.
- Students can play at home and at school and find independent success.
In my fourth grade math classroom, I frequently use math games to engage my students and have witnessed these advantages first hand. Games offer unparalleled engagement opportunities and have the opportunity to change the culture around math in the classroom. Where sometimes math can be a point of frustration and disappointment, through gamification students can be engaged in individualized math practice.
For example, my fourth graders are OBSESSED with a free math game called Prodigy. They tell me it reminds them of Pokemon and are begging to play. Last week, I panicked that the game was too much of a game and maybe it wasn’t doing enough to have them practice, so I spent some time talking to a colleague who also uses the program. We looked more deeply at the program and chatted about the benefits we see in our classrooms and eventually came to this conclusion: Prodigy is great becauses it makes math fun for students and thus changes their mindsets about what math is like. If I have students who are excited about a math game then it is something that is valuable for my classroom.
Ruteledge, B. (2012). “Video Games, Problem-Solving and Self-Efficacy – Part 2.” Psychology Today. Retrieved October 17, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/positively-media/201208/video-games-problem-solving-and-self-efficacy-part-2.
Way, J. (2011). “Learning Mathematics Through Games Series: 1. Why Games?” NRICH Enriching Mathematics. Retrieved October 18, 2017, from https://nrich.maths.org/2489.