It's a sad reality that math is commonly among students’ least favorite subjects—many view it as boring, irrelevant, and often bewildering.
And being satisfied with nothing more than a passing math grade is often the best that many kids feel they can achieve.
Educational institutions are well aware of this common dislike for learning math and are creating programs aimed at making math more enjoyable, interactive, and game-like.
It’s no secret that video games are widely popular with kids and channeling this enthusiasm towards education has tremendous potential.
In fact, there are strong correlations between gaming and learning math—including logical thinking and decision making, spatial awareness, and creative problem-solving.
“One of the biggest benefits of gamification is that kids also get to “play,” which developmentally is important,” says Dr. Alison Gopnik, an educational psychologist.
“Play is not just some touchy-feely activity. And it’s not just that you want to leave children alone and not rush them. There’s hard evidence that children learn more things through play than they would in some academic setting,” said Gopnik in a recent interview.
She suggests that incorporating gaming elements, such as going on adventures, changing characters, and earning instant rewards, can prove to be beneficial in changing a student’s attitude towards learning.
The use of such elements – a method known as gamification – makes math exciting and less repetitive. A study conducted by Deakin University found that playing math games “helped to alleviate the tediousness of repetitive problem-solving.” Video games also provide a sense of possible success for the player, an attribute that is not necessarily associated with math.
Game-based learning can also help bridge the gender gap in math and help young kids overcome stereotypes that boys are more inclined towards science and math, while girls prefer literature and art. By gamifying math, all students become more confident in solving problems.
Incorporating digital games for middle school students helps students in the long run. A recent McGraw-Hill study on the digital habits of over 1,700 college students revealed that 75% of the participants found technology to be helpful in preparing for class, and nearly 80% of this group associated it to their improving grades. The role of technology will also stem further into various careers, seeing as it’s common for companies to incorporate the latest technologies in their organizational structure and systems.
The New York Times shared what they call a better way of teaching math as well. They identified a curriculum called Jump Math, which suggests teaching math to students without the pretense of limited mental capabilities. John Mighton, the founder of the non-profit organization that created the curriculum, emphasized that any student can learn even the highest levels of university math courses, regardless of age.
Mighton stressed that schools have to stop systems that define the intelligence level of students based solely on their performance in specific subjects, including math—a practice that makes children more afraid of the subject, especially if they can’t adapt quickly to the pacing in their classes. The Jump Math curriculum is now being taught to over 65,000 children in classrooms and 20,000 at home.
Similar to approaching other subjects, teaching math has different methods and applications. And while each one is unique, they all hold the same objectives: getting students more interested in mathematics and its applications to real-life. As educational methods develop and edtech applications continue to evolve, the process of student development will experience more and more innovation.
By Jennifer Birch