Gamification is finding a way to make math fun for kids, making math play rather than work. The gamification of math lessons happens when you identify where math occurs in either actual games or in the world around you — always using math as the foundation. It’s fairly simple to do and can make all the difference when it comes to your child’s relationship with math. Here, we’ll look at what gamification is, why it matters and how to put this concept to use in helping your child succeed in math.
The concept of “gamification” can be difficult for some parents to grasp, often times because of the influx of math apps and programs out there that are, in reality, just video games with math problems dropped in. This often isn’t helpful to children struggling in math, because the math part of the game is still a chore. It’s something to just get through before you get back to the game. This is not gamifying math; it’s games with some math sprinkled in.
Making math fun isn’t a bad thing, though. It just needs to happen correctly. When you “gamify” math, you’re giving your child a fun math experience that keeps math as the focus. Elephant Learning’s approach is to use our proven effective math curriculum as the foundation and build games out of it rather than the other way around. You have to make the math itself enjoyable versus disguising math with fun from other sources.
Making math fun for your child within the confines of your everyday world is easy. Let’s say you’re walking down the sidewalk with your child and they say, “Oh, there’s a train.” That’s an opportunity for you to ask how many train cars they can see. How many engines are on the train? Even if it’s just their toys sitting out on the floor, you could ask them, “Can you give me three toy dogs right now?” Then your child has to identify what’s a dog, what’s not a dog and how many of them equal three. Take whatever your child can identify and formulate a math lesson that’s on their level.
Board games are an excellent way to make math fun for your child. There are lots of ways they can practice math skills during a family game night. For example, they have to roll the die, they have to identify the number on the die, then they have to produce that number of spaces on the board. When using board games to gamify math lessons, though, it’s really important that the game not be beyond your child’s level of comprehension or, if you’re playing the game with them, that you understand what’s beyond their level and then you do those parts of the game for them. You don’t want to ask them to do anything beyond that, because that can cause frustration and your child will no longer enjoy the experience (thus defeating the purpose of gamifying your math lesson). Some board games that might be a good fit for your child’s developing math skills could include Candyland or Chutes and Ladders. Both involve simple counting. If your child is beyond counting and moving on to other math skills, board games like Monopoly or The Game of Life could be more appropriate.
When gamifying a math lesson, remember that you’re working with a human being. You wouldn’t go to your job and start telling people that they’re blatantly wrong, so you can’t do that with your toddler or preschooler. You can’t say, “Oh, you’re wrong. Why don’t you get this?” Your child doesn’t know why they don’t get a concept. What are they going to say to you? Questions like these only lead to tears at math time — this isn’t making the math experience fun at all!
Instead of telling your child they’re wrong and asking why they don’t understand, you want to ask them why they think their answer is right. “Oh, you think five plus four is 10? Why do you think that?” When your child tells you why, listen to the answer and do not try to correct them while they explain. You’ll be able to realize exactly what the gap in understanding is. It is typically easy to either help them through definition or give them a hint that helps them figure out the correct answer. The hint is the preferred method because when a student gets an “aha” moment from solving a puzzle in real life or a game, then they own the win and they build intuition.
Related: The Three-Step Method to Teaching Math
Take math out of the classroom and bring it to life in a tangible, enjoyable way. Gamifying your math lessons, whether using an actual game or real life scenarios, is a great method of making math fun for your child, not just work.
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