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Published 1999 Revised 2011
We all know that children enjoy playing games. Experience tells us that games can be very productive learning activities. But ...
This article supplies teachers with information that may be useful in better understanding the nature of games and their role in teaching and learning mathematics.
When considering the use of games for teaching mathematics, educators should distinguish between an 'activity' and a 'game'. Gough (1999) states that "A 'game' needs to have two or more players, who take turns, each competing to achieve a 'winning' situation of some kind, each able to exercise some choice about how to move at any time through the playing". The key idea in this statement is
that of 'choice'. In this sense, something like Snakes and Ladders is NOT a game because winning relies totally on chance. The players make no decisions, nor do that have to think further than counting. There is also no interaction between players - nothing that one player does affects other players' turns in any way.
Oldfield (1991) says that mathematical games are 'activities' which: