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NYC Helpline: How To: Develop as a Professional

Everyday Mathematical Games: Are Our Students Working or Playing?
Theresa London Cooper

Recommended Book of the Month: Grades K-6 Teacher's Guide to Games, An Everyday Mathematics Supplement

"Games are an integral part of the Everyday Mathematics program, rather than an optional extra as they are traditionally used in many classrooms."
                                                                                                                                  Max Bell

Last month's article  provided a basic overview of the Everyday Mathematics program in a workshop model. One of the issues briefly mentioned was the purpose of games. Based on my conversations with various teachers and what seems to be a prevailing perspective on games for teachers who are using the Everyday Mathematics program for the first time, I have decided to take a closer look in this article at how games support student learning.

Traditionally, we think of games as activities which lend themselves to play, as teachers often use games in the classroom to reward students who have completed their work. In the Everyday Mathematics program, games serve a different purpose. There are several principles that are important to keep in mind when using Everyday Mathematics games:

  • They are an integral part of Everyday Mathematics that are not optional and should not be skipped.

  • All students are expected to play the games.

  • Many of the games have built in options, which help students develop fact power.

  • Games provide an alternative to drills that teachers use to help students learn number facts.

  • The rules of games can be modified based on the needs of the students.

Games have several purposes. First, they afford students practice in specific mathematical skills while students simultaneously enjoy playing. Although students have fun, they cannot play the games unless they possess certain mathematical knowledge. Since games involve numbers that are generated randomly, students can play them again and again without boredom setting in which often diminishes the effectiveness of repeated worksheets and oral drills. The idea of playing games encourages students to acquire the information necessary to play.

Second, games may be played in pairs, triads, quads or whole group allowing the students to learn from each other. Teachers need not be concerned about the aspect of competition since the games have various build-in options that will allow the teachers as well as the students to modify the rules of the game. If teachers wish to build community in their classrooms, they can adjust the rules so students work cooperatively.

Lastly, games reinforce and extend additional skills and real-world experiences. For example, teachers can create task cards for centers that will provide students additional practice with calculators, word-problem solving, logic and various other mathematical skills.

The Everyday Mathematics program addresses six strands: Numeration; Operation and Computation; Patterns, Functions, and Algebra; Geometry; Measurement and Reference Frames; and Data and Chance. It should be noted that the games help students address each of these strands; however because the purpose of the games is to support students in learning basic skills, the primary focus is on Numeration and Operations and Computation. Take a look at your Teacher's Lesson Guide; Volume 1 and your respective Teacher's Reference Manual to determine how the games build on each other from grade to grade.

Additionally, the recommended text K-6 Teacher's Guide to Games, An Everyday Mathematics Supplement lists the games according to strand with the appropriate grade levels.

Everyday Mathematical games are noted throughout the teachers' guides in various lessons to support student learning and teacher reinforcement of mathematical skills. The guides provide built-in options to meet the needs of various types of learners. Teachers must remember that the slow learner who may not complete all of his work is entitled to experience the games because they, more than the students who complete their work, need the practice, drill and reinforcement games provide.

Are our students working or playing? I believe they are working through play to construct meaning of mathematical concepts that will help them become better mathematical thinkers. If you have been skipping the games or only giving the students who complete their work an opportunity to use the games, I challenge you to change your thinking and try implementing the games as they are suggested in Everyday Mathematics. The Game Kits include all the essential elements to play the games. Consider sharing your materials with a colleague in a different grade to support student learning.

This article has been adapted from the various Everyday Mathematics manuals. For more thorough details about the games, read the recommended book. Carefully observe how your slower students become motivated and energized to learn while building their mathematical knowledge.

Do you have a comment or question about this article?  E-mail Theresa.


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