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Friday, September 30, 2016

The Value of Math Games and "Out Loud Thinking"

I love using math games in math class. I suppose we could spend the entire block of time working quietly and independently in our math books, but then we would miss a whole other type of learning, as well as the opportunity to articulate the ways and whys of math. When I teach a game, there is a lot of discussion about why a choice is a good or logical one. We also talk about how to vary the game to make it more or less competitive. This “Out Loud Thinking” is hugely valuable, and increases the likelihood of hooking children into mathematical reasoning.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics agree. In a recent article, Kitty Rutherford gives numerous reasons for using lots of fun and motivating games. She says:

·      * Playing games encourages strategic mathematical thinking as students find different strategies for solving problems and deepen their understanding of numbers.

·      * When played repeatedly, games support students’ development of computational fluency.

·      * Games present opportunities for practice, often without the need for teachers to provide the problems. Teachers can then observe or assess students and work with individuals or small groups of students.

·      * Games have the potential to allow students to develop familiarity with the numbers system and with “benchmark numbers” (such as 10s, 100s, ad 1000s) and engage in computation practice, building a deeper understanding of operations.

·      * Games support a school-to-home connection. Parents can learn about their children’s mathematical thinking by playing games with them at home.

That last point brings me to a game we learned today. We’ve been playing a whole group version of this game, but this is a partner version. I’ve been calling it The High Number Game, but have also heard it referred to as Make The Most Of It. Here are the rules:


Using math cards (a special deck with numbers from 0-9) and a place value mat for each partner, take turns drawing one card at a time. Try to create the largest 7 digit number possible. As each card is drawn it is placed (and cannot be moved) into the ones, tens, hundreds, thousands, ten-thousands, hundred-thousands, or millions place). Partners read their number to each other, and figure out who made the highest number. (Some children have completely mastered this, others are still working on it.)

We talked about how points could be given. You can decide this at home, if you like. A person could get a point for getting the highest number, a point for reading their number correctly, and/or a point for getting the highest number possible with the cards that they drew. Or it could be a cooperative game, with partners working together to make the highest numbers, with no points given.

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