Creating Board Games to Teach and Reinforce Math Skills

  • Project-Based Learning
Craig Kemp (Math Teacher) & Todd Bearson (PBL Department Head)

Welcome to the Project Based Learning (PBL) Round Up, where heavyweight sophisticates celebrate, innovate, and facilitate the PBL education state!

This week’s driving question: How can creating a board game help students to demonstrate math mastery?

Designing a game is a popular PBL experience. In his 6th Grade math class (9.5 to 11 years old), teacher Craig Kemp leverages board games as a method for both teaching and reinforcing skills. Take it away, Craig ...

PBL (Problem Based Learning) has long been an important aspect of my teaching program. This term in my Year 6 mathematics class, we have been learning about fractions and decimals. After learning how to use and manipulate them effectively and developing an understanding of chance, it was time to give students the chance to apply their math skills to a real-life, practical problem.

The problem presented: The educational board game market is severely lacking fraction, decimal, and chance-based games to support learning. An educational games company has invited our math wizards to design a new game for students their age.

The requirements given:

  • A game for Year 6 students to support their learning
  • Includes an element of chance
  • Develops an understanding of adding and subtracting fractions, finding equivalent fractions and converting between fractions, decimals, and percentages
  • Challenging, fair, and exciting to play

From there the students were asked to complete a framework to structure their learning and a plan to organize it.

The students investigated a variety of games, created a checklist, and used the rubric to construct their games. They planned and designed a draft game which they then spent time (over 3 days) in small groups evaluating their games against their own checklists. The students gave feedback and constructive suggestions to their peers.

From here, the games were developed, adjusted, and assessed against the rubric. The process has been the most amazing experience to watch. To listen to the in-depth conversations between groups of students about their games and the justifications for the elements of their game were brilliant!

Finally, we reached out to an entrepreneur game developer through Hasbro UK. He skyped us to discuss the process that he follows when producing games. Students were able to connect their own process with that of the entrepreneur. It gave them the feeling of being an expert and encouraged them to push and extend themselves.

The students have now completed their games and the knowledge they have gained form this PBL experience is far better than any other way I would teach the concepts. A brilliant and interactive way to learn. 

If you’ve considered sticking a toe into the PBL pool, a game is an excellent and accessible way to start.

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