Game On

“No play, No learning – Know play, Know learning”

Donna & Sherry


“Game based learning (GBL) helps students improve problem-solving skills and make it possible for them to interpret their society, nature and the world around them through experiences.”  Dr. Sukran Ucus

How important are games and play to engage students in learning? As educators, we talk a lot about the importance of differentiation and addressing multiple intelligences…does ‘having fun’ promote and enhance learning too?

Game-Based Learning

According to Andrew Diamond, “game-based learning can be defined as lessons which are competitive, interactive, and allow the learner to have fun while gaining knowledge.”

Diamond also defines GBL as having three key elements:

  • Competition
  • Engagement
  • Rewards

In my previous role as classroom teacher, I introduced game-based learning in to my grade 4 students to help them learn their multiplication facts before the end of the year. All semester we’d focused on different conceptual strategies for multiplication and division, but ultimately, the students just weren’t confident enough in their times tables to apply these strategies efficiently. My personal blog details how I introduced and ran the 6-week competition: Multiplication Madness

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The idea was to promote collaboration, team-building and a healthy dose of win-win competition where children worked towards a goal (team with the most points), but ultimately everyone earned the reward of learning their multiplication tables. Teams were mixed-ability levels and on ‘game days’ there were 3 differentiated levels to choose from, so students could choose easy (Green), medium (Pink), or challenging (blue).

What worked well with this challenge, was that the teams were expected to be supportive and encouraging of their teammates, and also good sports with the other teams. They helped each other improve in their knowledge of the times tables. Also, providing several opportunities for the team to redeem themselves during the week made it less of a one-off chance for one team to defeat the others. It focused on progress and gave students who weren’t ready to answer the ‘medium’ or ‘challenging’ cards, a chance to be a risk taker later in the week.

Students also quickly asked to self-monitor the score chart (a whiteboard with tally marks under the team names) and also the delivery of the multiplication challenges. In the end, it was entirely student-led and students were applying multiple skills such as mental math calculations, tallying results, and organising themselves.

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At first I was worried that the competition would intimidate the students with learning support needs. But I quickly noticed the opposite…they were more motivated than ever to practice their times tables, and students were really trying to help each other improve for the sake of the team. Some of my least likely students became risk-takers over night, challenging themselves with the harder ‘Blue’ questions. Students felt that not only had they become more confident with their times tables, but they become more confident in themselves as learners.

During one of the challenges, we invited the Grade 3 students to participate. Afterwards, students asked if teachers would play a round too, while the students kept score.

Teachers take the Challenge…and Students Score

Learning no longer encompasses solely content. According to Envision Experience, twenty-first century learners are expected to have the following skills:


  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Creativity and imagination
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving

We need to provide students with opportunities to work through these skills, while also giving them a chance to make learning fun. Growing up I never enjoyed studying my multiplication tables, and through GBL, I was able to support all learners in my classroom to master these important number facts…in addition to allowing them to develop important and life-long skills.



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