Teaching Hacks: Why Games Matter In The Classroom

Image Credit - blackboardandbrush.wordpress.com

Image Credit – blackboardandbrush.wordpress.com

Here at Team Zap Zap, we’re a little biased towards games, so whenever we come across cool ways to learn math in a fun and relaxed way, we are totally on board. This time around, we thought we’d focus on the unsung heroes of the world – teachers, by highlighting how games (online AND offline) can be beneficial and enjoyable in classrooms! We recently stumbled upon a wonderful list of DIY games that teachers can incorporate into lesson plans, or even as part of recreational activities beyond the classroom that parents can make use of. With the speeds at which kids pick up and absorb information these days, these activities are a sure fire way for them to learn while having a great time, which is something we at Team Zap Zap definitely appreciate!

The awesome people at Cool Creativity have curated a wonderful list of games, which you can check out here. You’ll see that each game is simple to setup, requiring minimal items/props (or even items you have around the class already!), and with easy instructions to follow. Teachers – if you want a change of pace with math lessons that don’t require plugging in to devices or flipping through text books, it’s time to get back to basics! Not only will these games encourage your kids to learn math and build their skills in so many different and wonderful ways, it will also show them how math goes beyond the realm of the classroom too!

Why Games Are An Effective Method

Games in general allow kids to be more visual with their math lessons, having them theorize and come up with conclusions based on tangible items instead of merely having to memorize formulas. At the very core, of course, it allows kids to be kids! Play is vital to a child’s development and with the various types of games available nowadays (some of which we’ve covered previously here ), teachers will be able to work collaboratively with parents and students at any level of education to come up with appropriate games to aid in learning. These can help to enhance the learning experience, as well as motivate the kids – which is most crucial. For children to feel engaged and excited about lessons is a great asset, and will significantly improve morale, thus working to the advantage of both teacher and student.

Notable Educators To Take Inspiration From

There are many teachers out there who’s passion for their craft has been both inspiring and groundbreaking, particularly in terms of reaching out successfully to their students in positive and encouraging ways. We’d like to take this opportunity to mention two notable educators from two distinctly different generations, a well known name in the field of education, Maria Montessori and contemporary educator, Professor Jo Boaler. Both these women are noted for their work in the field of education, and we’re going to learn a bit more about how their methods and approaches to teaching can in fact bring about positive outcomes for students. Let’s just say we’d like to think both Ms. Montessori and Professor Boaler would approve of our approach to teaching and learning too.

Maria Montessori was the creator of the Montessori Method, which has ideals that are very much rooted in the concept that learning should be hands-on, and ensure that kids are able to learn at their own pace and realize their great potential in their own time. Care is crucial to Montessori’s way, and teachers function more as support systems rather than authoritative figures. That means that independence, creativity and “freedom within limits” are lauded. The “freedom within limits” concept basically means that while certain guidelines will be put into place to ensure a sense of decorum can still be maintained, children will be able to think independently and make their own decisions.

If you’re wondering whether this means all students must be educated using the Montessori method, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Teachers can use the methods as a framework, so that they are able to provide for their students in the most rewarding ways. Games are just one way to do so, but the point is that when teachers are able to give their students a little bit of freedom to be active participants in the classroom, and not merely at the receiving end of information, both parties will reap the rewards. Students will be able to see that learning can be a collaborative experience, with sufficient support from their teachers. Consequently, teachers too will have a more fulfilling teaching experience as they prep for classes by incorporating creative concepts along with more traditional methods.

Professor Jo Boaler is a Mathematics Professor at Stanford University, and founder of YouCubed – which was created as a resource center for parents, teachers and students to be able to access information to materials pertaining to math, as well as to promote the concept that learning math should (and can) be enjoyable and mentally stimulating to kids instead of boring and tedious. YouCubed’s mission is to inspire “math success for all students through growth mindsets and innovative teaching”, and Professor Boaler clearly extols the same vision. In her speech at The Aspen Institute below, she details how we really need a revolution when it comes to Math, and that it IS possible for change. Instead of associating math with boring, formulaic calculations, she stresses the importance of making math fun, visual and creative – as it should be.

What we can adapt from both Maria Montessori and Professor Boaler is the fact that learning is dynamic, and does not have to fit into one single mold. Once we break free from the stereotypical views that hold us back, we open ourselves up to new learning experiences.

How Zap Zap Math Is Aligned To These Ideals

Having expanded initially in this article to talk about how learning should occur autonomously for it to be useful and successful, we want to also touch on how our app has evolved to keep these ideals in mind. First, we have strived to create an app that is enjoyable to kids while being informative and educational, but we know that this is not enough. We have to also ensure that parents and teachers are able to provide support when needed. Zap Zap Math (downloadable here) may have been created mainly for kids to enjoy independently, but we also understand that it is important for teachers to be able to facilitate and track their progress to gauge their levels of understanding. One of the ways we have done this is with the teacher’s dashboard (pictured below).


This allows teachers to keep an eye out for their kids without hovering over their shoulders or pressuring them in any way. We definitely recommend it as an additional tool for teachers to utilize in classes, perhaps as a form of supplementary math that can help your students while they aren’t at school.

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