Active Learning and Elephants.
Using math games for active learning is like trying to chain an elephant. Let me put this is perspective. You can’t chain an adult elephant because they are simply too powerful. They would simply bust the chain with a single foot movement.
You must start when elephants are small.
A small chain is placed around the foot of a baby elephant and, like difficult students, they struggle and fight the chain.
They soon learn they can not bust through the chain and resign to the fact that the chain won’t hurt them.
Using math games for successful active learning when relief teaching, is a little like chaining elephants.
You take little steps but make allowance for attempt at breaking the chain.
When you first use these games, the kids might struggle. Active learning will certainly be active but usually not much learning occurs at the start.
The difficult kids, especially, will try to circumvent the game and not participate in the learning.
Like little elephants, they will fight the learning process but have heaps of fun with the games.
You may even question why you chose it in the first place. But it changes quickly.
So why choose math games?
Elephants are eminently suited to working in their environment. Using math games for active learning is the same.
In the appropriate relief teaching environment, they are great tools, especially for difficult students.
The kids are in charge of where the learning goes and grows – the very definition of active learning.
These games are the source of active learning because kids feel, and they actually are, in control.
How their math learning evolves depends on the success of the game. So how do you make games successful when relief teaching?
1. Make the learning open-ended.
There needs to be a correct answer but vary the learning processes by which students get there. For example in 41 Math Games, the student can vary the operations and, using the brackets, vary the groupings by which they arrive at the answer.
2. Provide controls that don’t stifle active learning.
There are a number of options that make learning exciting. If there is a way to beat the system, kids will find it. Keep the rules of the math games simple enough to provide a structure but flexible enough to provide a challenge.
For example, have a template but these can be completed by using the luck of the draw and the math choices.
3. Have a winner.
Kids will often forget the purpose is to explore math learning. They will attempt to beat their opponent to a pulp to the Rocky Theme. Have a winner so that there is a purpose to the game.
4. Make the processes easy but the mastery difficult.
A teacher needs an activity that they can use a couple of times at least. Effective math games will have a skill that is easy to use but take a while to master. You need several variations for each game so skills learnt in one game can be applied to another.
5. Use activities that suit all learners.
Even difficult students love math games. They love the competition and also the less intrusive nature of the learning. This is a bonus for relief teaching. Reluctant learners are supported by the shared active learning of the game especially those included in 41 Math Games.