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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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