Can Digital Apps and Games Enhance an Early Mathematics Curriculum?
Among both children and parents, math tends to have quite a reputation for being difficult to learn. Though math is objective and based on logical rules, many mathematical concepts can be abstract for kids who struggle to relate it to real life. Even word problems force children to imagine hypothetical scenarios, a complex thinking process that is tough for kids.
Additionally, students are taught to memorize math facts for fluency alongside learning how to conceptually understand that math processes they are performing. When kids are expected to learn math in these two very different, but necessary ways, it’s easy to see why the subject is frustrating for students.
Luckily, there are many tools and options available to both parents and educators to help kids learn and master math. The internet and smart devices, such as phones and tablets, have ushered in new innovative ways for children to practice problems and build fluency and engagement, especially at a time where we are asking our children to learn math both conceptually and by rote.
So, how can digital apps and games enhance an early mathematics curriculum? Let’s dig deeper to explore the benefits of digital games in the classroom, and how they work to engage children in mathematics.
Why Digital Games Work
According to this study from the Journal of Educational Psychology, students find it challenging to master and remember basic math facts with enough fluency to increase conceptual understanding. As mentioned earlier, young children tackle math concepts from two angles: they memorize math facts, but they also must learn the concept behind the processes they take to add, subtract, multiply, and more. If kids cannot build a well-developed foundation for facts, the conceptual understanding will also be lost, as they work hand-in-hand.
The study points out that children need ample opportunities for targeted practice, and digital apps can provide that practice in these innovative ways:
- Digital math games and worksheets provide an individualized experience as students work through skills at their own pace. This means that children who need extra practice will be able to get it, while those who are ready to move on will advance.
- Math apps allow for children to receive immediate feedback, and do not require a parent or teacher’s supervision.
- The feedback provided is positive and motivating when children master concepts and advance to a new level.
- Digital apps are engaging because they include exciting premises, tasks, characters, and voicing to help keep children encouraged and focused.
Targeted Practice that Kids Enjoy
In another study that also explores children’s own perceptions to playing digital math games as a supplement to their coursework, it was noted that students tend to enjoy game-based learning, even if their parents or teachers were skeptical to its use. Regardless of the common perception held by adults, the research reported that educators believe that disinterest in math leads to poorer outcomes and learning math concepts only for the sake of mastering tests and earning high grades. However, implementing activities that students enjoy, such as digital games, can increase motivation and improve conceptual understanding.
While there is clearly no substitute for a qualified teacher and meaningful direct instruction, digital games and apps hold potential in providing targeted practice of math skills in a way that motivates kids to succeed. When combined in a balanced curriculum that provides a variety of learning methods, digital games can serve as an excellent way to reinforce skills and prove mastery.