Educational math games are the core of our homeschool math curriculum. The games are helping to reinforce math concepts that my daughter is learning. These are games where she interacts with me or another child while holding a card or dice or domino or etc. I was quite surprised when I read this article in the Huffington Post titled “Why Aren’t Math Education Games More Widely Used?” and discovered: 1) they are only talking about iPad games; 2) they are focusing only on games that teach new math concepts instead of including games that review math concepts.
It is very difficult to use educational math games for teaching with such a narrow criteria. I really believe math games should be engaging and that depends on the student. My daughter likes iPad games as much as any kid, but I see a different level of engagement when she is paying Math Bingo versus Modified Tic-Tac-Toe. In Modified Tic-Tac-Toe she makes up the rules as she goes (usually to her advantage), she incorporates some role playing because we are using small eraser toys, and she still has to figure out the math problem to move her pieces on the board. I hear laughter as she plots out her next strategy. I really think this is because she is involved with another human instead of a computer.
I just want to be clear, I don’t think iPad games are bad. We also use them in our homeschool routine. We use them when we’re in the car and need to make up for some lost school time. We use them when she just needs an alternative to practicing math concepts. Some of the more advanced games have an overreaching goal that she finds interesting like Monster Math and Math Ninja. The iPad games can also be good for reviewing a very specific math concept that she may be have a little trouble with.
I think the second problem with this article is that it is focusing on educational math games that teach. There is nothing wrong with games that teach, but my daughter is a tactile learner. We tried Time4Learning and basically she got bored. This online tool is great for the visual learner, but not so much for the tactile learner. Secondly, these online games can be quite expensive. In public schools, the model is one teacher to 20-25 students. This model limits one-on-one time with the teacher and substitutes computer time instead. If this worked with my daughter, it would be fantastic. But, she likes to pretend she is a character in “Peg Plus Cat” and skip her times tables.