• Dr. Monica Cavender

Why Use Games???

There are some who think that teaching math games to children is a waste of valuable time. After years of teaching math to children and elementary teachers using games, I am convinced games are an immensely helpful resource for parents and teachers who want to make sure that their children develop and practice some of the skills they will need to become proficient with math in school and life.

I recently worked with a group of elementary children on promoting fact fluency through strategic thinking and fun practice with games. We met twice a week for 90 minutes. The sessions were set up in small groups to promote discussions around mathematical thinking. We played lots of games and talked all the time :). I was reminded of the positive experience games can provide for fact fluency and the love of math. When the kids shared excitedly about all the different places they tried out the games (in the car, at the babysitter’s house, etc), I knew the games were well liked and the kids found them fun. I also knew they were practicing and therefore improving their fact fluency.

I am a math fanatic. I truly believe that everyone has the capability to learn fact fluency and do so with a smile. I think if we work together to show fact fluency is fun and can be approached a variety of strategies, kids will be eager to practice it more.

Children need substantial and enjoyable practice. Practice at home is critical but should be meaningful and stress-free through games, strategy talk, and self-assessing progress.

You may be a bit skeptical at this point. Maybe you are great at math. Maybe it always came easy to you. Maybe memorization worked and the drill of numerous worksheets and timed tests lead to rewards like a gold star at the top of the sheet and good grades. OR maybe you are a bit resistant because math is not a subject you ever felt good at and the thought of smiling and having fun doing math is not comprehensible. I encourage you to stay with me. I’ve worked with hundreds of adults that were self-labeled “math phobes” as well as those who were “always good at math” types. BOTH will find value in the games and strategies in this blog. I think you will agree with me that we want more children to love math because they find the thinking, explaining and solving fun. We want them to smile and do math. We want them to grow to be adults where they are confident and good at problem solving. We all want this for our children. So please, join me in opportunities for family experiences that bring smiles, conversation and confidence for both children and adults.

Try a game out with a couple of kids. If their experience in school has been to complete lots of worksheets or if they have been told they are not so good at math, they likely will not be eager to play a “math game”. So just share you would like to play a game with them. It will be our little secret that they are actually practicing fact fluency strategies.

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