A SchoolHouse for Everyone

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Learning Through Games

Laura Grill
November 11, 2020

There is evidence that games help students learn better. Rewriting a lesson, with a story context, combined with a challenge for the student to overcome (in other words, making it into a game) significantly improves the learning of children.

I think I learned how to add and subtract 3-digit numbers and find friends of 10 through Monopoly. I loved that game (I always wanted to be the dog!). I can still list the purchase price and rent (without houses and hotels) of every property on the board.

I learned about strategy through Mancala. In third grade, I spent many hours determining the best first move. I’m not going to share the secret! First I tested random moves while playing with friends. Then, I realized I needed to keep track of my trials and started taking notes (and began to work on this project privately!).  It was through Mancala that I began to understand the importance of having a process and how to keep track of my work. This was my scientific inquiry if you will.

Games serve as low-risk ways to learn how to lose, to accept that it’s okay to lose, and to lose graciously. You say, “good job” to the winner, and then maybe, “let’s play again”.

Games teach us strategy. Do you have the best first question in the game of Guess Who? Is it “does your person have blond hair?” or, is a better question, “does your person wear an accessory?” Why is one question better than another?

Battleship is a precursor to understanding the coordinate system (which will help a lot for middle school math!), not to mention strategy in terms of which points to pick. Chocolate Fix develops logical thinking (there are lots of games that are similar).

“Memory” is another game that is fun(you never age out) yet trains the brain at the same time. All students will have to learn how to memorize vocabulary words, dates, grammar rules, and more. “Memory” primes them to do this. (Also the game Simon, if the noise doesn’t bother you!)

Math games like The Product Game(one of my personal favorites) or Black Jack (yes- this helps with addition facts!) develop fluency. Children are more likely to want to play these games over and over again, whereas, with a worksheet, the inclination is to complete it and move on. Games “trick” students into doing extra practice!

In addition, many games afford grownups the opportunity to participate in learning at the same level as the children.  You might be able to beat your child in Black Jack initially, but once he/she/they understands the rules and the odds the playing field is leveled. To me, this moment when the child can beat the grownup is a magical moment (and it happens!).

Same with War. It’s fully a game of luck, but still has benefits. It teaches youngsters to quickly compare numbers and practice subitizing (immediately knowing how many of something is therewith a quick glance).

There are so many more games, I could go on and on explaining the learning that happens with more of my favorites (but this post is long enough and with more than enough exclamation points). Reach out if you have more questions, but in the meantime, play some games with your child(ren). They also make for wonderful holiday gifts, as they are truly a gift that will keep on giving.