The value of games in developing Maths skills

Playing simple board games can really motivate children to practise their Maths skills, reduce anxiety and build confidence.

Ms. Catherine Rooke
03 December

Playing games is fun!

All the primary aged children I work with (and some of the older children) really enjoy playing games. They are a great tool for motivation especially since many of these children find Maths difficult and, as a consequence, do not enjoy the subject, lack confidence and find it boring. However, during my sessions, through incorporating simple games, they often forget they are learning and practising Maths and are surprised to discover how much they achieved! Comments such as 'My son hasn't stopped jumping since you've gone and has asked to see you for 6 hours a day!' and 'My daughter left your house skipping down the street!' clearly demonstrate how games can really have a very possitive effect on both confidence and enjoyment.

Can I use any game?

It is really important when choosing a game to aid learning that the focus is on learning. Simple boardgames are the most successful; games where counters are moved around, or a snakes and ladders type game are very successful. Although the child can be focussed on winning, a game which has only luck, rather than strategy, involved enables the child to focus on the Maths skills they needed.

My child is very shy and/or anxious.

Playing games is a fun and enjoyable activity. Children play board games from a very early age and understand the simple rules. When playing a Maths game with a child, they often forget that they are being 'taught'; it is so far removed from completing worksheets, that children let their guard down and just start to have fun. When they are having fun, children are able to demonstrate what they really know and have the motivation to try, even if they aren't too sure. Even the most anxious child can surprise you. Furthermore, when playing a game, the pressure of answering everything correctly is taken away and children are more prepared to take risks - frequently surprising themselves!

How does this work online?

Many parents have been amazed that I am able to play these types of games online with their children! Together, we choose a board and some counters. At times, we even design our own, using an online whiteboard. With online dice, we roll and answer questions based on the skill we are learning. It is possible to tailor and adapt the questions immediately so that the child is successful. Sometimes we even use the dice to create our questions. After we have answered the question, we move the counter until there is a winner.