Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why games? What do they do for my child?


I have often been asked why it is I give a game each week which makes the students go onto a website and play a game I specify.

"Is it mathematical?"
"What's the point of doing this, do they have to?"
"Tell me, why should my child spend time doing this?"
These are all the sort of questions I get asked by parents anxious to make sure their child is geting what they need. In some schools who have heard of coolmath4kids, they have placed a ban on it because they believe it is not mathematical and therefore not relevant.

I beg to differ.

Let me start by telling you a story which is very true and comes from one of the Dolphin Worlds in America.
The trainers had some new dolphins to work with and started to teach them to perform tricks when they gave a give command. The method they used was very much like the clicker method of working with dogs only they used a whistle instead.
They started by getting the dolphins to play and every time they did a back flip, the whistle blew and they were given a fish. Very quickly the dolphins realised if they did a back flip they got a fish so were doing it every time they were asked and for a week they were happy to do it over and over again.
The next week they did the back flip and got nothing, so they kept trying until suddenly one of the dolphins did a back flip and then did a twist. The whistle blew and she was given a fish. The others copied and soon they all were doing the back flip with a twist.
Now, you can probably see where this story is going, the routines grew and every few days, the fish were given only when a new routine was created.
Until one day nothing happened; the dolphins wouldn't do anything, they just swam about. So the trainers just gave them fish, just because they were dolphins. The following day they went back to doing their routines and following the trainers requests.
Why did I tell you this story?
Well, in many ways I am that trainer and although your children are not dolphins there are many parallels which can be drawn. I am asking them to learn new routines with their English and their maths and I am giving them homework on top of the work they are getting from school, so I am asking a lot of them.

They are only young and deserve to be playing and having fun, they are not just learning machines, they are children still physically and mentally growing......... and its that which these games reach.

The games vary in their content mathematically; some will develop logic and process whilst others working under increasing frustration and pressure. All will increase concentration and single minded determination to see a problem through.
Some will require the development of mental trajectory orientation as well as quite high level calculations of timing and speed, others will work on developing order and routine as well as learning in a progression of steps and remembering those steps to use later.
And some are just for fun, they are the 'fish' thrown just because they are 'dolphins'. Children are just that and every now and then, they need to be given something that is just fun and ridiculousness because they have to want to keep coming back to me week in and week out, they have to want to keep up to date with all the work they are given and they have to create a teacher/student relationship with me, that is held together with our sessions and the audio tracks, videos and pieces of work they are given on their memory sticks.
This weeks problem solving game
So, next time they say, "Jo says the game this week is ********", then let them play it, perhaps not all the time :-) and remember, this could be brain development, synapse formation, mathematical expansion or just plain old fun.

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