Gaming and Maths – A Teacher’s Perspective
It is no secret that maths is a daunting subject for many students and causes them anxiety. Only teachers know just how difficult a task it is to make maths enjoyable for all pupils.
One thing all pupils have no problem enjoying is playing games! If only there was a way of introducing gaming as a way of teaching and making learning maths more fun. Well, we recently chatted to Dina Beydoun, maths subject head at Parkview Senior School, who explains how she has been able to successfully use gaming as a tool for teaching maths.
Dina has 25 years of experience working with children. She specialises in math learning difficulties (particularly, the effect of anxiety and how it mimics learning difficulties in Mathematics). Her impressive CV includes a BSc Pre-Medicine (American University of Beirut), a BA in Psychology (University College of London), a Diploma in Primary Education (Chalimbana University Zambia), and a Masters in Education and Social Psychology (University of Massachusetts).
Dina uses an innovative game-based platform called ‘Matific’ in her classroom. Matific is an international company gaining major popularity with South African schools. SA school teachers have been raving about the platform on SchoolAdvisor.
We asked Dina some specific questions to understand how she uses Matific to support her current teaching techniques and get her pupils excited about learning maths. This is what she had to say.
Q: Let’s start with the basics. Why do you use Matific?
A: I found it a lovely way to provide a large number of math resources to help students practice what they are learning. Everything is sorted by grade or by textbook. The textbook sorting was perfect for me as I could easily compliment my math lessons (I use Oxford headstart CAPS).
The combination of ‘fun and practice’ is perfect. Kids enjoy the treasure path hunt for monster cards which adds another dimension of friendly-competitiveness to lessons. Friendly competition helps keep students challenged.
Q: Does Matific enable you to teach more effectively?
A: As a teacher, you need to have a clear understanding of what your students already know, what they are ready to learn next, and how they learn best. Matific allows me to use math games to differentiate learning instruction for pre-assessment, formative assessment, and for practice and engagement after a skill is mastered.
The most effective method of gaining this familiarity with students is through pre-assessment. Before beginning a unit of instruction, I use Matific to challenge students to play a specific game and achieve a certain level of proficiency. I then use the game results to pre-assess my students. I love how easy it is to read assessments on a child’s level and target areas of weakness. This feedback is one of the main reasons I use Matific.
Giving pupils a Matific lesson allows me to collect data during class and then review it later through reports and results. While kids are working at their computers, I can utilise my time by circulating during a class and can support students with targeted feedback. I can also check their scores after class to see which math problems were causing the most confusion. This helps me to better plan future lessons.
The diversity of learning styles and abilities in any given classroom means that teachers must meet each student where they are in order to ensure their success. In my classroom, this difficulty in instruction is made easier by games and data. While Matific gives me both of these ingredients in one place, it’s all about how the teacher uses games and data to effectively apply teaching lessons.
Q: You mentioned ‘gaming’. Does gaming work for you?
A: Classroom games these days may seem like an indulgence. I, however, use games to differentiate instruction and reinforce skills that students need to tackle higher maths. Matific offers a variety of choices within the games. For example, if you are practising a specific skill, there are usually several different games that can practice that skill. This allows students to choose how they want to practice, which adds to their motivation and usually results in a higher quality effort.
Q: How does gaming work for the kids in reducing anxiety and building engagement?
Games tend to feel non-threatening to kids with math anxiety, which really helps them to advance. Suddenly, students are engaged in mathematics and do not see maths as the class they hate or can’t do. Maths becomes more fun, energetic, and cooperative. Students attitudes are one of the greatest benefits or obstacles, depending on whether the attitude is positive or negative, in learning maths.
Q: Does your class get excited about using the Matific program and gaming?
A: Referring to my answer in question #3:
Yes, they do; very much so! I often set a number of games towards the end of a term and allocate a 5% mark to those games. This encourages pupils who didn’t perform well in tests or exams to boost their marks.
Pupils start hounding me to do Matific Assessment Games straight after their first class quiz! Most of the feedback from kids is very positive, however, we have to keep in mind that a few students (usually girls) do not enjoy computer games. These students mostly are, though, already proficient in maths.
Q: How does Matific work within CAPS?
A: Matific integrates well with CAPS and I have found that it fills some of the topic gaps that are inherent in the system. A concern I have is that there is not enough time to play games in an overcrowded CAPS curriculum. However, I do my best to allocate at least one lesson a week to Matific and, since most of the kids at our school have internet access at home, I assign homework for them to complete on the Matific website.
Q: Do you have any final comments about Matific and gaming?
A: When students use games to reinforce skills or memorize facts, they do more problems that can be worked through direct instruction with a sense of fun attached. This repetitive practice can reinforce facts and skills that usually are reinforced through rote repetition only. The automaticity of basic facts and operations are directly related to success in mathematics, especially as the content progresses and becomes more abstract through the years. I found Matific perfect for helping save time when having to work on repetitive practice.
One problem I have seen repeatedly with teachers who try to use games in maths is that students don’t do the maths correctly and often don’t know they have done it wrong. Because of this, they reinforce errors and misconceptions. This problem is perfectly resolved with Matific games and that is the second reason I like to use Matific.
Matific 15-day free trial
Matific are confident their platform will work hand-in-hand with your current math lessons. To prove this, they are offering schools a chance to test their platform for free for 15 days. Click here to start your free 30-day trial.
Since Matific is an international company, they have employed local expert, Nadia Blignaut, to bring local flavour to their internationally recognizable brand. Nadia will be able to answer any questions that you may have about Matific.
What SA schools are saying about Matific