Games Can Teach

I’m a gamer first and a teacher second.  I’ve been playing games most of my life:  board games, card games, video games, etc.  In the last 5 years I’ve become a teacher and a father within the last 3 years.  In that time, I’ve noticed that my lifelong hobby can be applied to education and parenting.  Let me explain.

When I was young and in school, I struggled with math.  The teachers would give us continual worksheets, promote timed memorization of multiplication tables, and give us one solution to solve every problem.  It would take me forever to finish my math and I did poorly as a result.  When I became a teacher, I began teaching math to elementary students.  The curriculum we use is very group-based, using hands-on components, and promotes multiple solutions to problems.  Since I’m a social person, I enjoyed the components of board games, and like to try new and different ideas to problems, I began to really enjoying teaching math.  As I dug deeper into the curriculum, I looked closely at some of the activities: for teaching coordinates, we taught a lesson called Sunken Ships and Grid Patterns.  For geometry, it was Tumbling Tetrominos.

What a minute….You mean to tell me that elementary math today is taught using Battleship and Tetris???  Exactly.  The fact that the curriculum depends on group work, components, and finding multiple solutions proves to me that board games and video games have much to teach us.  These games teach us communication skills, teamwork, logic, spatial awareness, number sense, and countless other educational processes.  I see the same thing when my preschooler plays with my board games.  He is learning colors, shapes, counting, and organization.  Games are so important in education yet they do not get the respect they deserve.  And the rewards that games offer:  points, rankings, achievements, new levels, etc. can be powerful motivators to keep us coming back for more.

So my quest is to look at the hundreds of games I own:  board games, card games, PS2, Xbox 360, DS, iPhone, and find educational value in each one of them.

I hope you will join me.

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