MaMaMu: Board Games?

Do board games have a central or peripheral place in mathematics education? Both involve problem solving, but are the problems similar enough so that proficiency in one translates to proficiency in the other?

Research in
education has started to adopt the powerful scientific methodologies used in medicine. Ramani and Siegler used one of these (the Randomized Controlled Trial) to investigate the effect of a board game on the mathematical competency of pre-schoolers.

They randomly allocated pre-school children to play for one hour on either a "number board" or a "colour board". The result: mathematical competency of the children playing on the "number board" was significantly better nine weeks later.

This is a phenomenal result: cheap to implement; far reaching in its positive effects. You can read more about it in Child Development, March/April 2008, Volume 79, Number 2, Pages 375-394

There is anecdotal evidence that games are pedagogically useful well beyond pre-school and well-beyond "number boards", but quality scientific studies are lacking.

On balance it is probable that encouraging strong problem solving through games will have a positive influence on problem solving ability in mathematics. Hence, MaMaMu will strongly support and showcase board games in the expectation that quality scientific evidence will be forthcoming.

The same positive effects are also likely to be associated with computer games and puzzles. For example, Bloxorz (click on the graphic below) has rich game play that children and adults adore. The Magical Mathematics Museum will aim to add a social dimension to some of these computer games and puzzles by projecting them on large monitors and designing the space to encourage multiple children to sit together to play.

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