Teaching Mathematics with the use of board games

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Why use gamification?

The answer to this question: motivation. Gamification carries an important pedagogical value in education, as it represents a dynamic and stimulating way to challenge my students aged 15-18 years old. Specifically, the term “game-based learning” refers to the integration of a game, or game elements in the teaching process to achieve predetermined educational outcomes. In my classroom, I have been using this approach successfully for the last two years. I opted for the use of well-known games such as Hasbro’s Monopoly, M.Y. Traditional Games’ Ludo, Traditions’ Snakes and Ladders or any similar board game that can be commonly found in people’s homes.

What are the learning objectives?

Game-based learning can be adopted in any introductory lesson in every STEM subject, and the activities can serve as ‘’ice-breakers’’. I have chosen to use it while approaching the topic of “Interest rate,” an important aspect of financial mathematics that students will learn this year.  The pre-determined aims of the lesson were the following:

  1. For students to have the ability to explain what interest rate is,
  2. recognize the differences between decursive and anticipative interest rate,
  3. obtain the ability to compare calculation formulas of decirsive and anticipative interest rates.

However, the learning objectives extend beyond the gain of new academic knowledge from part of the students. In fact, the board games involved in the lesson are originally intended for 4 players, which perfectly suits the group principle of 4 to 5 participants as the basis of modern pedagogical practice.  Therefore, by playing in teams, the students will also exercise different skills contributing towards their personal or social development such as communication, critical thinking, collaboration. Students are expected to form close relationships with their peers, connect traits and behaviors that can influence acceptance and promote respect. Most importantly, students will become confident and learn how to believe in their personal potential.

Creating a game-based lesson concept

In order to integrate game-based learning in my classroom, I will provide an example of how my students and I have used Ravensburger’s Star Wars Labyrinth in the explanation of the concept of  “Interest rate”.  The original Star Wars Labyrinth game consists of :

  • a board of 34 square maze tiles
  • 24 symbol cards of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Jedi master Yoda, R2-D2, and
  • different pawns for each player. The goal of the game is for players to uncover all of their symbol cards hidden in the maze and then return their pawn to its starting point on the board. The players can move along the maze only by following a white line.

Financial mathematics principles taught with board games

When I use the game in my classroom, I maintain the original rules except turning the 24 symbol cards into cards that contain information about the concept of “Interest rate.” I am listing below some advanced Financial Mathematics principles about interest rates that can be examined while using the cards, ideal to be used in classes of older students:

  1. Interest rate refers to the amount indicated as a percentage to the amount of the loan paid by the loan recipient for using it during a certain period (month, quarter, or year).
  2. Interest rate is the price of money as a means of saving.
  3. Interest rate is rate of interest charged for the use of money, usually expressed at an annual rate.
  4. Interest rate is an expression of the amount of money that the borrower pays for using the borrowed funds, having the form of a percentage of the total loan amount.
  5. Interest rate is derived by dividing the amount of interest by the amount of principal borrowed (I.e., if a bank charged 10 euros per year in interest to borrow 100 euros, they would be charging 10% interest rate).
  6. There are two types of interest rates that depends on the time of interest payments.
  7. The decursive rate is the interest paid in the end along with the main loan amount.
  8. The anticipative rate is the interest paid at the time of the loan (in advance) and determined based on the final amount of the debt.
  9. The anticipative rate is more profitable for a lender and a decursive rate – for a borrower.
  10. As a rule, two formulas are used to calculate interest rate – simple and compound interest.
  11. Simple interest is the accrual of interest at the end of the term – for example, a yearly deposit with interest paid at the end of the deposit term.
  12. Simple interest is calculated as follows: S = (P x I x t / K) / 100

Teaching about formulas and computational thinking

Other relevant concepts that a teacher can consider using to instruct their students about formulas include the below:

  1. In simple interest formula I stands for I – annual interest rate.
  2. In simple interest formula t stands for t – the number of days for calculating interest on attracted deposits.
  3. In simple interest formula K stands for K – the number of days in a calendar year (365 or 366).
  4. In simple interest formula P stands for P – the initial amount of funds attracted to the deposit.
  5. In simple interest formula S stands for S – the amount of accrued interest.
  6. Compound interest is when interest is capitalized within the term of the deposit (monthly or quarterly) – for example, a yearly deposit, with the interest capitalized during the year.
  7. Compound interest is calculated as follows: S = (P x I x j / K) / 100
  8. In compound interest formula I stands for I – annual interest rate.
  9. In compound interest formula j stands for j – the number of calendar days in the period following, after the bank capitalizes the accrued interest.
  10. In compound interest formula K stands for K – the number of days in a calendar year.
  11. In compound interest formula P stands for P – the initial amount of funds attracted to the deposit and the subsequent amount, considering the capitalization of interest.
  12. In compound interest formula S stands for S – the amount of money due equal to the original amount of borrowed funds plus accrued capitalized interest.

Added value of the game and assessment of the predetermined outcomes

When adapting the game “Star Wars Labyrinth” for academic educational purposes, I have told my students to imagine the game board as a financial market. In the original game, each player finds the pawns belonging to their symbol cards and aims at collecting those symbol cards in the maze. In an imaginary financial mathematics game, a player does the same thing except that they read out loud and copy on their notebook what is written on the cards as they collect them along the maze.

At the end of the game, students will be given the summary of the lesson regardless of the game. However, in this way, they were introduced to the content of the lesson with an alternative and original approach that carries pedagogical value, as well as encourages the development of social skills. A winner will also be elected to motivate the students to engage in the game. May the force be with you!

About the author:  Ivana Prezzi graduated in Management at the University of Economics in Zagreb in 1999. In the past, she worked both in several companies and as an entrepreneur. Today, she is a teacher who enjoys passing on her knowledge to students and working with them. She teaches Economics at The Commercial and Trade School of Split, Croatia, EU. Along with loving  Economics, she is also a fan of games.

2 Responses to “Teaching Mathematics with the use of board games”

  1. Kameel Vohra says:

    Gamification of maths learning can be applied to much younger kids as well. We use it all the time with our 7 year old. Calculating scores, damage and adding dice. Great concept – and think it could be applied to reaching computation logic just as easily!

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