Using Game-Based Learning to Teach Maths – A Teacher’s Perspective

Maths can be a very daunting subject for junior learners, causing them to even experience anxiety because of it. One junior school teacher, Dina Beydoun (maths subject head at Parkview Senior Primary School), has discovered how game-based learning can be used to make maths more engaging and fun.
Dina has 25 years of experience working with children. She specialises in math learning difficulties (particularly, the effect of anxiety and how it mimics learning difficulties in Mathematics). We asked Dina some specific questions to understand how she uses a game-based platform called ‘Matific’ to support her current teaching techniques and get her pupils excited about learning maths.
Matific is an internationally recognized game-based learning platform for Grade R – Grade 7 learners. The resource teaches students the art of problem-solving in a fun and engaging way. Every activity teaches a fundamental concept. Matific is used by teachers as a teaching tool as well as by students for class and homework. The resources also allows teachers to easily differentiate within the classroom.  
Since its launch in South Africa, the platform has now been gaining major popularity with South African schools. Local expert, Nadia Blignaut, has been employed by Matific to specifically work with junior teachers (like Dina) and is on hand to help you get started with game-based learning. We’ve arranged with Nadia that if you leave your details at the end of the article, she will connect with you and explain how game-based learning works.

Our interview with Dina Beydoun

Q: Let’s start with the basics. Why do you use Matific?
A: I found it a lovely way to provide a large number of math resources to help students practice what they are learning. The combination of ‘fun and practice’ is perfect.  As a teacher, you need to have a clear understanding of what your students already know, what they are ready to learn next, and how they learn best. Matific allows me to use math games to differentiate learning instruction for pre-assessment, formative assessment, and for practice and engagement after a skill is mastered.
Q: How does the use of math games work for you?
A: Classroom games these days may seem like an indulgence. I, however, use games to differentiate instruction and reinforce skills that students need to tackle higher maths. For example, if you are practising a specific skill, there are usually several different games that can practice that skill. This allows students to choose how they want to practice, which adds to their motivation and usually results in a higher quality effort.
Q: How do games help in reducing anxiety and building engagement?
A: Games tend to feel non-threatening to kids with math anxiety, which really helps them to advance. Suddenly, students are engaged in mathematics and do not see maths as the class they hate or can’t do. Maths becomes more fun, energetic, and cooperative. Students attitudes are one of the greatest benefits or obstacles, depending on whether the attitude is positive or negative, in learning maths.

Q: Does your class get excited about playing math games?
A: Yes, they do; very much so! Pupils start hounding me to do Matific Assessment Games straight after their first class quiz! I often set a number of games towards the end of a term and allocate a 5% mark to those games. This encourages pupils who didn’t perform well in tests or exams to boost their marks.
Q: How does Matific work within CAPS?
A: Matific integrates well with CAPS and I have found that it fills some of the topic gaps that are inherent in the system. With an overcrowded CAPS curriculum, I do my best to allocate at least one lesson a week to Matific and, since most of the kids at our school have internet access at home, I assign homework for them to complete on the Matific website.
Q: Do you have any final comments about game-based learning?
A: When students use games to reinforce skills or memorize facts, they do more problems that can be worked through direct instruction with a sense of fun attached. This repetitive practice can reinforce facts and skills that usually are reinforced through rote repetition only.
One problem I have seen repeatedly with teachers who try to use games in maths is that students don’t do the maths correctly and often don’t know they have done it wrong. Because of this, they reinforce errors and misconceptions. This problem is perfectly resolved with Matific games and that is the second reason I like to use Matific.
If you think game-based learning is something you need to implement in your classroom or if you would like to find out more about it, leave your details here and Nadia will tell you all you need to know! Please note: Nadia works for Matific whose platform is for Gr R – Gr 7 learners only.
If you think game-based learning is something you need to implement in your classroom or if you would like to find out more about it, click here to leave your details with Nadia who will tell you all you need to know! Please note: Nadia works for Matific whose platform is for Gr R – Gr 7 learners only.
What SA schools are saying about Matific – see how SA school teachers have been raving about the platform on SchoolAdvisor.

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