Of all subjects taught in schools, Math has attracted the imagination of online gaming developers the most. Numbers and formulas work well with game design techniques, & online games are a useful tool for any math teaching kit. Math games come in all shapes and sizes, and are a good way to reward good work, reinforce a lesson, motivate students and assess how well they have understood the learning content. They also allow students to work independently of a teacher, and can be played both in school and at home allowing autonomous reinforcement of learning content. But, choosing a math game from the thousands online is tricky; some require downloading special software, others are complicated and take up valuable lesson time just explaining how to play them.
Boasting over 5 million registered students, Sumdog is an online platform for free math games and English games that integrate fast-paced gaming with organised student accounts and reporting functionality. It has 10 lively and interesting free maths games, with quick, easy to understand instructions and clear colorful graphics. The games are well designed and quick to pick up. Using a combination of maths problems and simple gaming techniques, students are quickly engaged and looking to hit top scores. Motivation to use the game is high, and a multiplayer function adds a competitive edge which some students genuinely enjoyed.
Some of the Sumdog games to try out include:
‘Pop Tune’ creatively mixes music and math by using quick fire maths questions linked into a music grid. How the game works is that players have to correctly answer a maths problem, and then drag their answer onto the music grid. Where the correct answer is dragged on the grid, it makes a specific noise. When played with multiple players lots of different noises are created alongside maths questions being solved. At the end of the game a cacophony of noises are playing on the grid and the winner is highlighted on screen.
Answering quick fire maths questions can speed up your heart rate, get your brain working, and catch even the best mathematicians out. ‘Tower Climber’ certainly does this! The multiplayer game puts players against each other to answer math questions while climbing a tower. On the bottom of the screen you can see where your competitors are in relation to you, and whoever climbs to the top of the tower first, wins.
Aliens are a common inhabitant of maths games, and ‘Alien Invaders’ is a classic shoot ‘em game that uses correct answers to maths problems as ammo against Aliens. If you answer correctly it is easy enough to keep the aliens at bay, but if you make mistakes, the aliens keep coming and can overrun your screen.
Although the gaming element of Sumdog stands out above many competitors, being able to direct bespoke learning, create student accounts and producing reports based on their scores, makes it a superior product for the classroom.
Teachers have the ability to choose what topics they want to see within the games, from basic addition, to expression and equations. These are all sorted by grade to make it easy to select topics relevant to your classroom, and focus on which skills you want your students to work on. The multiplayer functionality is another key element of Sumdog that can be positively leveraged in the classroom. It is easy to choose who your students play against, whether it is their friends or other students around the globe.
There has already been evidence from teachers that Sumdog has improved math test scores when used over a term period. On the Sumdog blog, a fourth grade teacher described how using the technology increased the average test score by over 20% in her students. It is easy to see how this could happen, both because of the content of the games, and also because the games themselves are well-constructed and interesting to play. Rather than focusing only on the math content, the developers have obviously thought about design and game play to motivate players and get them to continue playing the game either in the classroom or in their own time. Sumdog is not stopping at math and reading, and is getting ready to launch Sumdog Writing in late 2013.
The basic Sumdog package is free of charge, and most of their Math games are free to play, but some subscription fees apply to access newer games, English grammar or unlimited reports and analysis.