It’s that time of year. State testing is done, you’ve taught the curriculum, and you’re wondering how to make the best use of the time you have left. Make sure that part of your plan includes remediating grade level computation skills. Trust me, the teachers in the grade level following you will love you for it! We spend a lot of time on word problems, and rightly so, but it’s critical that students can compute fluently, and the skills from one grade level are the foundation for the next. Take, for example, multiplication. In Texas, 3rd graders multiply 2-digit by 1-digit factors. In 4th grade, students must multiply up to 4-digit by 1-digit and 2-digit by 2-digit. Finally, in 5th grade, students multiply a 3-digit number by a 2-digit number and decimals to the hundredths. With time as tight as it is, it’s tough enough to teach your own standards, let alone go back and teach skills from prior grades.
As you pull small groups to remediate skills, your focus is to fill in the gaps the students have and teach or solidify their understanding of computation methods using manipulatives and/or pictorial representations. Pencil and paper practice is for after you’re certain they understand the method you’ve taught. But they do need to practice in order to internalize the method. That’s where math games come in.
Why math games instead of workbook pages or worksheets? I can think of three good reasons right off the top of my head, and I’ll illustrate them with an easy game for practicing multiplication. In this game, students roll a dice either 3 or 4 times (depending on the version), create a multiplication problem using the digits rolled, and multiply. After working three problems, players add to find the sum of their three products. The player with the greatest sum wins.
Now for the reasons:
- Math games often include an element of strategy, which elevates the practice to a problem solving level. In this multiplication game, students will likely use estimation skills and an understanding of place value to determine how to combine the digits to result in the largest products.
- Games can be reused an infinite number of times. With a standard worksheet, the numbers are fixed. Once a student has completed the worksheet, they need another worksheet to practice with different numbers. In this game, the numbers are randomly generated by rolling a dice, so the same sheet can be used over and over.
- Math games are engaging! What is it about rolling a dice or turning over a domino that makes practicing math so much more fun? I don’t know, but I do know that it works. Give a student a dice to roll and you’d think the Tooth Fairy left them a $5 bill! There is also competition, of course, and who doesn’t like a good competition?
There you have it. Ready to play the game? Grab it here. 🙂