Essential Solutions 2-MIN. READ

Four Ways Math Games Can Motivate Your Students

By: Molly Spalding 02/21/2023
Here are four ways to use math games to motivate students and improve understanding.
Students playing math games.

Students often don’t realize they’re learning when they play math games. Whether played at home or in the classroom, math games provide engaging practice opportunities that can improve your students’ fluency and number sense and help create an interactive and engaging learning environment.

Here are four benefits of introducing math games to your classroom:

1. Math games merge the engaging elements of gameplay with learning.

Games propel students to stretch their minds, provide novel challenges, and let them play while making deep connections to core math concepts. Introducing math games into the classroom keeps learning fun for students of all ages and helps everyone connect with the joy of learning. The immersive settings in games—such as being a bakery owner keeping track of orders or a hungry fish that eats integer bubbles to solve sums and differences—all help build diverse connections for understanding math in a more creative, enjoyable, and empowering way.

2. Math games encourage students to be self-directed learners.

If your students can choose the type of game, the pace, and the level of difficulty, this helps foster a healthy relationship with productive struggle. They can carve out their own path and work through their individual math needs all while remaining engaged in the content and having a positive experience with an academic challenge. If the content becomes too difficult, you can use different scaffolding techniques to encourage a stepping-stone approach for your students to master curriculum content. These techniques can include breaking concepts into smaller and more manageable pieces, providing constructive feedback, or asking questions to help guide your students’ thinking. With this scaffolded learning in place, you can bolster your students’ resilience and confidence in their own abilities.

3. Math games are a flexible option for in-class and at-home learning.

Math games can be utilized in a variety of settings: during regular class time, as engaging homework  or weekend enrichment, as activities in before- or after-school programs, or whenever your students have free, unstructured time. By incorporating gameplay throughout your students’ week, both in and out of the classroom, they can build a stronger connection to the material, even when they’re not physically in school. Your students are prone to play math games more—even during their free time—because the games are rewarding and fun.

4. Math games provide safe opportunities for students to take academic risks.

Math games improve your students’ math proficiency and can intrinsically motivate them to seek knowledge and proactively solve problems. By working their way through these games, they learn how to approach failure with a growth mindset.

In the EdSurge article,Playing Games Can Build 21st-Century Skills. Research Explains How, Katie Salen, a game designer and theorist, explains gameplay like this: “We expect games to be spaces where we fail. It’s actually fun to get better at something in a game when it’s structured in the right way.”

By having control over their gameplay, supporting group and individual goals, assessing their skills, and testing new strategies, your students will develop their self-awareness, social awareness, emotional regulation, interpersonal relationships, and decision-making skills—and they’ll have fun while doing it.

Find out more about how math games help students learn.