Minimester Musings: Math Games

I’m currently teaching a middle school STEAM class and as part of that I’m incorporating math games into the curriculum.  I’ve been very happy with how this has been going.  Students are fully engaged in both playing the games and finding mathematical patterns to describe winning strategies.  Furthermore, all of the students are able to participate and get value from the exercise, which is something of a minor miracle considering how heterogeneous the skill levels in the class are.  (Some students are learning algebra while others can not yet do basic arithmetic reliably.)

Before this year, I admit that I was a bit dubious about the value of math games.  Most of the games I was familiar with either weren’t very much fun (i.e., not really games) or they didn’t contain enough math to be a valuable addition to the classroom.  A great book titled Math Around the World (part of the LHS GEMS series) has changed my mind.  The games and approaches recommended in this resource have given me a great model for how math games can be both fun and rigorous.

I would defiantly like to use math games in the future. Having said that, I’m not completely convinced STEAM class is the best venue for them – ideally, the math in STEAM class should be fully integrated into science and engineering projects.  Instead, math games would be a perfect foundation for a recreational math minimester, elective, or club. If I was teaching in a long enough format, I might pair the math games with mathematical art projects.



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