Creating and playing games in preparation for NSPCC Number day has led to great excitement! Children have been hugely creative in adding a maths-themed item to their school uniform, whether it is a tie scattered with numbers or socks adorned with patterns.
We have continued with our theme of numbers in PE and games lessons inspired by the fundraising efforts of Captain Tom in his ‘100 challenge’. Activities have ranged from throwing 100 bean bags into a hoop, to doing 100 keepy uppies.
Experience tells us that games can be very productive learning opportunities. But how can we justify the use of games in mathematics lessons and what are their educational benefits? Games involve a challenge, usually against one or more opponents and are governed by a set of rules with a clear underlying structure. There is normally a distinct finishing point and they have specific mathematical cognitive objectives.
Many of our children have explored the application of mathematical skills in a meaningful situation. They have been highly motivated and chosen freely to participate and play. Games engender a positive attitude, providing opportunities for building self-esteem and developing positive attitudes towards mathematics. The fear of failure and error are reduced considerably leading to increased learning and interaction between children. Children describe the rules of the game and are encouraged to select the correct mathematical vocabulary. They have opportunities to test intuitive ideas and develop problem solving strategies.
In planning, designing and testing their own games, children have sought to work at different levels and to operate at different levels of thinking and to learn from each other. In a group of children playing a game, one child might be encountering a concept for the first time, another may be developing his/her understanding of the concept, a third consolidating previously learned concepts.
It has been wonderful to watch children work independently to develop their ideas and explain their thinking to others. They have learnt to be precise and taken ownership of their learning.