By Patty Pearcy, President & CEO of SimplyFun
What is Sneaky Math?
Sneaky Math: The inclusion of math or math concepts (meaning no numbers) that reside underneath more obvious game mechanics, theme, or graphics to support a fun learning and play experience.
Math seems to be one of those subjects that people either love or hate, and those feelings generally tie to whether they are good at it or not. We often hear folks with artistic or musical talent say that math is not their thing, which could not be further from the truth. To be good at many disciplines, including those in art and science, you need to have some affinity for math, whether you publicly admit it or not.
Math Got a Bad Rap
People’s like or dislike of math begins early and is often shaped by what they hear. If my best buddies say they don’t like math, well I probably don’t want to like it either. After all, we all want to fit in. If a family member states that they are ‘just not good at math,' well then, it’s ok for me to bail out when struggling with a math concept. After all, we all want to belong to a clan. If my siblings talk about how ‘boring’ their math homework/classes are, then I also want to avoid taking the boring stuff when picking classes or subjects to be interested in. After all, we all want to avoid what should be avoided! So how did math get such a bad rap? I bet you can see the pattern starting to emerge.
In all honesty, numbers do not help themselves be loved. Unlike words that have vibrancy by creating images and feelings; numbers are, well, numbers. So yes, in their raw state, they are boring. But math itself doesn’t need to be boring. In fact, it is the basis for much of the fun we have, particularly when playing games as kid or an adult!
Math is All Around Us
Virtually all games we play have a math component. Even when they don’t contain numbers, they likely contain an element of probability which is a math concept. Games and puzzles also showcase real-world uses of math like dividing up, adding up, or multiplying to get a result. Games might use pawns and graphics (like cute pelicans) to help practice order of operations or algebraic thinking visually. And seriously, could you think about a trip to Vegas and have any luck at the tables without knowing some math? Gameplay is the answer to giving numbers meaning, to make them feel alive, and to create a result-generating fun! Using numbers in game play is like taking the alphabet and turning them into words and stories. It brings them to life in a sneaky math kind of way!
Break the Math Dislike Cycle
Circling back to where we started, we need to do a little work on our own relationship with math if we want to convince our early learners of its value. Want to break the cycle of ‘math dislike’ in your family? Here are seven steps to get you started:
- Stop trash-talking math! Think positively. Just because you don’t like it, don’t poison the well!
- Avoid saying 'let's practice math’ to introduce any activity. By definition, boring.
- Avoid introducing a game as a ‘math game.' Who wants to play that?
- Avoid saying "we are going to play a game for homework." You will never get me near any game again!
- Try not to use your phone calculator for EVERYTHING! Do some math in your head and set a good example.
- Share real-life useful applications for math. How do you make the most out of your shopping budget? Buy this or buy that, add it up as you go through the store, and use real money. No swipes allowed. The smarter you shop, the bigger the special treat you get to add at the end! (Or the bigger allowance your kids get at the end if they are helping you shop!)
- Lead by example and resist the urge to use your fingers to count. You are a grown-up! Brush up those math skills. Use it or lose it!
March is the perfect time to put these sneaky math skills to the test! March Mathness is SimplyFun's annual, month-long celebration to promote the joy of learning essential math skills through play. SimplyFun's latest Math & STEM game, Team Digger, just launched in correlation with the month-long celebration and throughout the month, select math games are available at a discount—including favorites such as Grill Party and Acorn Paws—to underscore the significance of math education.
Even More Math
Math can be fun and cool while simultaneously pulling kids away from screens. Win-win! Check out our blogs, Cool Math Games that Encourage Less Screen Time and Practical Ways to Increase Your Child’s Interest in Math for even more math tips, tricks, and ideas. Game on!