The Wonderful World of Math Games
This is an article from Homeschool.com’s newest e-magazine. The magazine is chocked full of great information-perfect for teaching preschool math–calculus.
There’s plenty of great, free math games to play out on the web but how do you find them and what do you do once you find them? Well, as an owner of a math website that has lots of math games, I can help you answer those questions and then some.
Why Math Games?
If you’ve read this far you probably know the answer already or have your own reasons for wanting to provide math games for your students or child. I have a ton of reasons I could list but I’ll keep it brief and list just one. Back in the old days (that would be the days I grew up in!), math was part of our daily lives and very little was done by machines/computers. So after working in a grocery store for several years, adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing were second nature to me. So when I was in my math classes in high school I was able to focus on the new material being taught versus getting hung up on the basic math. It certainly saved me a lot of time doing my homework as I had made a lot of the basic skills routine or second nature.
And that is where I think math games come into play today–to replace the daily math practice I had to do every day at work that made math routine. And I can tell you playing a fun math facts game is a lot more fun than dealing with customers who think you haven’t gives them of correct change.
Free Math Game Websites!!??
Yes, there are lots of free math game websites and you’ll come across several types if you look around some on the web. Some you’ll have to pay for, some will require you to enter personal information for a sign-up and some will be free. The free ones are usually ad supported or non-profits supported by donations or sponsors.
Fairly often after explaining that my website and games are free to use and play I’ll get a follow-up question asking if they can be used in a homeschool classroom. The answer is yes and is true for all of the free math websites.
Common Core ##@$$**!
So really a math game is a math game is a math game regardless of how it is categorized (Common Core Standard number, skill, grade level, etc.). But love it or hate it, a lot of educators are looking for math materials aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). So you will see a lot of websites with games mentioning that they are aligned with the CCSS. All this means is that the games have been tagged with the CCSS numbers that applies to them. I wrote quite a few math games before I had ever heard of CCSS but those games did align with a CCSS number. I try to stay out of controversial issues but I will say that CCSS is a pain as now every time I develop a math game I have to categorize it by skill and by CCSS! 😉
Choosing a Math Gaming Website
If you don’t already have a list of favorite math game websites be sure and look around the web as there are a lot of great math game websites out there. A lot of websites share their games with other sites so if you see a game you like, check out the branding in the game to see if it came from another site. It might be from a site that you’d really like and maybe have never heard of.
Before letting your child use the site, be sure and check it out some. One thing I see on sites that might concern you is that some sites, even very popular sites, will include non-math games in with their math games without clearly identifying them as such. I try my best to identify the game as a math game by listing the skill included in the game in its listing. I also keep the math games in their separate area away from the puzzle and logic games.
And if the ads bother you, you can always use an ad blocker. Wow, that was hard for me to say due to the fact that we are able to provide free games because of the ads! But seriously, a lot of the websites including mine review the ads or block sensitive categories. That said, I personally don’t mind ads especially since the flashing type animations aren’t as annoying as they used to be. And over the years I’ve discovered some great products and websites by viewing the ads.
Math Game Types
Well, I mentioned earlier that I like to stay out of controversial issues but this is one issue that I always am embroiled in. My wife, co-owner of our site, is the educator in the business while I am the gamer, math, ex-bad student guy in the business. So when it comes to developing games I lean more towards the “fun for students” type of games while she leans more towards the “best for teachers” type of games.
Below are how I loosely categorize the math games:
Quick Hit games – these are played when you only have a short time to play. Educators tend to like these types of games and the games are usually simple math facts type games.
Level games – The object is to get through each level. These can be un-timed or timed.
Timed games – These games require certain tasks to be done within a certain amount of time. Kind of getting a bad rap these days but some gamers like a challenge and always want to go back and do better next time.
Un-timed games – Nothing timed in these games. Nice for when a player wants or needs to take a little time figuring things out. Good for group play where everyone contributes to the solution.
Logic/Puzzle games – Not math games but good to play when done with math. They keep minds active and are related to math since math has been described as logic with numbers wrapped around it. I like to think of these type games as wolves in sheep’s clothing since kids really like them but they do add value.
You won’t find the game types above categorized like this on any website, but it will give you an idea on what types of games you might see on sites and how they might be used. What you really have are games that try to keep the students engaged no matter what age, level, or personality type they are.
Now that you have a list of websites and games that you like what do you do with them? Well, you can always save the links of your favorite math games or math websites in your browser’s favorite list so that you can access them later. A better solution would be to use one of the free bookmarking websites available that allows you to create and access your own list of favorite website links that you can access from anywhere and share with anyone.
Symbaloo at edu.symbaloo.com is one of the free bookmarking services that I use. It allows you to have your personal website listing of links in something they call a webmix. It is easy to create a webmix from scratch and even easier to take an existing webmix and modify it by keeping what you want, deleting what you don’t want and adding more links.
Below is a webmix I created containing links to some of our rounding games on the left side and links on the right side to our rounding games page, our website and Homeschool.com. You can go to Symbaloo and take my webmix or any of the other many webmixes and slice it and dice it any way you like adding, removing or modify links as you like.
The webmix above looks pretty cool right? You’d think it would have taken a long time to create but it didn’t. The webmix above was created by going to the web location I wanted to save, copying the link by highlighting the URL in the browser and then pressing ctrl-c to copy. I then clicked on a blank tile in the webmix and rather than typing in the link I just pressed ctrl-v to paste it in. The icon automatically showed up and I could choose to use it (which I did), provide my own image, or just type in text if I didn’tt want to use an image. For the homeschool website I did the same thing I did for the games except I went to www.Homeschool.com and copy and pasted the URL (http://www.Homeschool.com/default.asp) from the browser.
Now You’re Ready to Have Some Fun!
Did I say “You’re” ready to have some fun! Why not? I keep reading that keeping the brain active with activities such as puzzles and games will keep your brain healthy and your thinking sharp as you age. And as I mentioned earlier, logic/puzzle games are a good way to keep your mind active too. So really math games and logic games aren’t just for your child or students. Now go out and have some fun!
Tommy Hall is the owner of mathnook.com along with his wife Jan. Tommy works full time but spends his free time utilizing his math degree and love of games to create some of the math games found on MathNook. Jan is retired after 28 years as an educator and now spends her time working on the website.