Learning Math Can Be Fun & Games
In recent years, math instruction and curriculum has taken on a new, constructivist face. The teacher’s role in this model has shifted from the central possessor of knowledge to that of the facilitator of learning. Children from preschool through adolescence develop meaningful comprehension by actively constructing their own knowledge, rather than passively receiving information.
In student-centered classrooms, math games are one such way that students can engage in this style of learning, “grappling with important mathematical concepts” through play that is accessible but challenging. Math education guru and author Marilyn Burns recently published an article, One of My All Time Favorite Games, which walks readers through the specifics of how she facilitates “Two-Dice Sum Games” first with a 2nd grade class and later with 7th graders.
Among her beliefs about math games, Burns shares:
I think math games should be an integral part of math instruction.
I especially like “low floor, high ceiling” games that are accessible to all students, where learning to play is easy but the potential exists for students to grapple with important mathematical ideas.
I like games that combine numerical skills with thinking strategically.
I also like games that have an element of luck to add some extra excitement.
In the Journals of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Douglas Clements and Michael Batista argue, “In reality, no one can teach mathematics. Effective teachers are those who can stimulate students to learn mathematics. Educational research offers compelling evidence that students learn mathematics well only when they construct their own mathematical understanding” (MSEB and National Research Council 1989, 58). While this approach to teaching and learning can sometimes prove daunting for educators, Marilyn Burns is an expert whose research and resources support teachers in developing fun and meaningful approaches to math instruction.
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