Best Games for Learning Math and Other Takeaways from DiscoveryCon
Want a list of cool games that build your child's math muscle and get other inspiration from experts on children's play? Keep reading :)
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I was perusing UnschoolingMom2Mom's list of unschooling conferences and stumbled across the California Homeschooling Association's DiscoveryCon. The only problem was that it was only a week and a half away and registration was closed.
I felt very drawn to this gaming conference and on a whim, I contacted the organizers and they opened the registration for me! I'm so happy it came together because I got a lot out of it and I thought I'd share a quick and dirty recap of my best take-aways from the speakers--most of whom were discussing the important relationship between play and learning!
"You can teach anything to a child through playing games." --Carlos Angeles
Carlos, a former lawyer from Mexico, teaches ESL science and math classes in California. He did a session on teaching math and foreign language through playing games. It was a joy to watch him excitedly show a room full of adults how to play his favorite math and language games and how they get kids to understand and use math.
The Best Games for Learning and Practicing Math
1. Dice (and lots of them!)
The number of games and ways you can play with dice is endless. My kids LOVE dice. So much so, that Townes has been absconding with them whenever we play a game with dice...he has a collection in his room that we have to raid whenever we play games that require dice.
Pokemon is a fantastic learning game. This was news to me! A long time ago, I embraced the strange world of Pokemon. I'm not a huge anime fan, so I never understood the appeal of Pokemon. But seeing our son come alive while telling us all about the different characters in great detail was something we wanted to encourage.
He reads books on different characters, watches the shows, and recites all of the different types (while asking us which is our favorite along the way). What I didn't know is that there is quite a bit of math involved in Pokemon! This was a pleasant surprise and Kate confirmed this is the case. (She has recently become a big fan, as well.)
One of the other attendees told the group that her kid went up TWO grades in reading and THREE levels in math after they started playing Pokemon. If that isn't an inspiring story, I don't know what is.
I might even have to learn how to play now :)
Gobblet is like a 4-piece tic-tac-toe game where bigger pieces can gobble up the smaller game pieces. Carlos said this one is easy to learn, but hard to master. It's a 2-player game that develops visual perception and also encourages problem solving. (ages 7+)
Quaridor is a fast playing abstract strategy game for two or four players. We love team play (boys against the girls is usually a big hit) at our house, so this will be right up our street. Carlos said, like Othello, the "right moves" at the start of the game directly affect who wins in the end. (ages 8+)
I never played Othello as a kid, but apparently it is now considered a cult classic for "my generation". After reading more about it, it looks right up our ally! You probably already know how to play. I'll be reading the directions LOL (ages 7+)
6. Clumsy Thief
The Clumsy Thief sounds complicated, but also really fun for kids. The Amazon description says it's a "Hilarious, fast-paced, stacking and snatching game" for kids and adults.
It's an "add to 100" game where you can steal stacks of cards if the circumstances are right. The first person to 100 wins! I love games that don't drag on for ages LOL (ages 8+)
Sumoku (not to be confused with "Sudoku") is a crossword style numbers game like tic-tac-toe with numbers. This is another solo or team play, so it gets extra points from me! (ages 8+)
Carlos caught wind of Speed! on the playground from some other homeschooling families. It's sold through the blog of the mother who created the game (small business! yay!). The video on the linked page didn't really help me understand how to play, but I'm sure it's one of those things that you figure out as you attempt the first round.
Speed! provides multiplication practice for numbers 2-9. I love that it's not straight on memorizing the multiplication tables and yet the repetition is still woven throughout the game.
The description on the website says:
"When kids play Speed! they not only learn to skip-count, but gain valuable number sense skills that help in learning multiplication, division, factoring, reducing fractions and the many math skills which build on skip-counting. The best way to help a child gain this type of number sense is to play consistently with one deck of cards. When a child can easily beat an adult that child is ready for the next deck."
I'm so excited--I can't wait to get our new games! I will update this post with our reviews once we've had a chance to give them a try.
More Inspiration from the DiscoveryCon event
I listened to Kristin Shepherd's presentation on play and its importance in our society and I can tell you I was riveted. Not only was her enthusiasm contagious, she had incredible information that I couldn't get enough of.
A former teacher, she started Recess Revolution after observing her students and researching how play, or lack of play, was affecting them and greater society.
I'll probably do a separate post on this subject because it's such a meaty topic, but when children play, they naturally go through the 'scientific method' of:
It's not something they had drilled into them from a grown up. It is something that comes naturally to them. And as they get older, we just get in their way.
Play also provides opportunities for conflict and, more importantly, conflict resolution.
“Confilict is beautiful. Conflict is where we learn. It’s where life happens.” --Kristin Shepherd
She said conflict and social stress helps kids learn how to:
- Justify our reasons (provide evidence of why you believe something)
- Understand perspectives of others
- Manage stress
- Recover from conflict
Seriously good stuff. If kids aren't given the ability to test the waters and make mistakes as kids, they will try to do it (with greater consequences) as adults.
“Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it.” -Mahatma Gandhi
Role Playing Online and LARPS
Guys, I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I had no clue what LARPS stood for and until a few weeks ago, I thought Dungeons and Dragons was for nerds. HA! It's not like I was the homecoming queen in High School, but I still never knew anyone who played it and it seemed like the nerdy kids were the only ones who played.
Aaron Vanek educated me during his talk at DisoveryCon. He's the Vice President of The Game Academy, a non-profit that is spreading the word about teaching kids through role-playing. His story really stuck with me--especially the way he figured out that traditional school, while he got through it, didn't teach him much. It wasn't until he got to college and started deep-diving into subjects that interested him, that he started retaining information. And LARP-ing took that education to the next level.
LARPS stands for Live Action Role Playing games. It's kind of like improv, but the setting is set in stone. And each player takes on a character to play out the scenario. The player has the option to make decisions on behalf of the character. This way, a child can take risks and try things maybe they wouldn't try in their regular life, but are willing to take the risk as another character.
Role playing games are also engaging on a computer or video game console--and probably what we are all more familiar with. The same positives apply and they create unique and important learning opportunities for kids of all ages.
Oh my gosh. I am SO EXCITED to learn about this LARPS stuff and even looking more into computer based role playing games (i.e. World of Warcraft).
Kids are natural LARP-ers. Playing cops and robbers and having tea parties with your stuffed bears is role playing! Somewhere along the way kids stop doing role playing. Schools certainly don't use this method (at least, not in my school!).
I think my kids will totally get into this. They already do this in free play, but I'm hoping we can add in some more structured LARPS that relate them to subjects they're interested in learning about throughout history. I can't wait to research more ideas and try this with the kids!