Scholarly Critiques #5 – Math plus Literature

Developing Math Games Based on Children’s Literature

By K. Cutler, D. Gilkerson, S. Parrott, and M. Browne

Maybe it is because Pi Day was just a couple of days ago or the impending doom of the calendar numbers reaching 4/15/2016, I have been drawn to another article about math and games. This brings in another subject, literature, which is considering I am needed to create a new syllabus for a literature class we are offering at the college this fall. Another reason that I choose this article is that this is another subject area that, in general, we continue to see a widening in the learning disparity. Children with limited access or may be from a low income family are struggling to keep up with their peers. Helping student teachers to find meaningful ways to demonstrate that learning is fun and all subjects are connected, is something that I try to focus on each semester.

The authors cite several different research papers regarding learning activities for young children and how this learning needs to be meaningful and come from the real world (in other words give the copier a break no more ditto sheets). The idea of using literature as a tool for expanded learning opportunities which involved all eleven of the different subject areas as well as the four different domains of: social, emotional, cognitive, and physical. Most of the paper discussed how simple board games with dice/spinners can help children with number recognition. Combine this with a board that follows a books storyline it also encourages the children to sequence and learn to use recall tools.

Socialization, turn taking, and understanding how to control emotions are a key factor to the games that were suggested. Though my experience with young children and games it is recommended to pair children who are newer to playing games with more experienced peers. This encourages socialization as well as the more experienced child gets to take on the role of the leader.

All games shown were material games so the children would have hands on experiences. Though there are books that have online/app games that children can play as well. I would be helpful if there were some simple programs that teachers could use to create games by inserting pictures and words from books in order to make a game that children could play on the computer or app. This would allow for a greater diversity of games for the teacher to offer. Also if the program was simple enough older children could help with creating the games and rewards (points) system.

I appreciated that the authors provided a variety of different game styles and examples for teachers to build off of. Though each game would be limited in its own way because it would be directly tied to a book, it is also very flexible in the fact that the teacher can select which type of game format they would use: from simple board to a board with different path choices, to creating a fish through the role of the die. This type of choice also allows for the teacher to recognize the different levels of learning that happen in the classroom in order to create a game that most children can be successful playing.

This article was easy to read with great ideas for teachers. I am going to add it to my online classroom for my student teachers to read because I think it will be helpful when we discuss creating games for children.

Retrieved March 18, 2016:

Play Journal (Extra) – Clue

Fun evening playing Clue with my hubby and son (25). My hubby commented on how he liked the traditional game better. That it was easier to follow who was where and how to reason out who was the killer. Interestingly my hubby never enjoyed Scooby-Doo as a child. Thus my assumption is that my son and I enjoyed it because we both enjoyed Scooby-Doo as a children and could relate to the characters and weapons where as my hubby could not. I wonder if they have a Clue game based on  John Wayne westerns.


Play Journal – Uno

Uno is one of those games that my family just loves. It was easy to learn when the boys were little and you can tweak the rules here and there to meet your own needs. We enjoyed a rousting game between 3 of us this Sunday night which was a great end to a busy day of working around the yard (thanks to my son Derek for stopping by with his chainsaw).

Uno is a simple card game with number cards from 1-9, special cards (reverse, draw two, skip) all in 1 of 4 colors. Then there are two different types of wild cards – regular and a draw 4. You start out with the typical hand (7 cards), the deck to draw from, and 1 card face up. You need to either match the cards face or the color in order to lay down a card from your hand or you can use a wild card. The object is to get rid of all the cards in your hand to win. Then you tally up the points of the cards for the other people and that is your score. Simple enough.

One of the difficulties is that the deck is huge that we have making it challenging to shuffle.The surprise always comes from how people decide to play. Will they just be keeping others from getting to Uno or will they be trying to win for themselves. Tonight my first plan was to win. BUT my son’s goal tonight was just to see how many cards he could get us to draw and keep his dad and I from getting Uno. He was quite successful in annoying his father for the first several rounds but then the cards seemed to change with Mark finally winning the game by reaching 200 points (that was the limit we set for the night because we were all tired).

Personally I love the games simple design because it is a game that families can learn to play together when the children are still young. There is a simple level of strategy involved. As children get older they will be able to decide if they want to play or hold onto a wild card when they can not match the face card. The flip side is that it is pretty limiting because of the format. Though creative players could add a depth and variety to the game. At one point in time my boys had decided that the different numbers did different things. This game the 8 was wild also. Maybe every red card counted for double points in scoring. Etc.

This game links me back to the paper that I had read earlier regarding games with exclusions and young children. This is a great game because no matter how many hands you loose you still get to play (unlike the Exploding Kittens where you had to wait for a winner before getting back in the game). It is important that all people feel involved.


Scholarly Critiques #3

Teaching the Relevance of Game-Based Learning to Preschool and
Primary Teachers

The first quote is what drew me into the article, “Game-based learning has been found to promote a positive attitude towards learning and develop memory skills, along with its potential to connect learners and help them build self-constructed learning”. In higher educations we talk often about students views regarding learning. I teach a couple of 100 entry level courses and I see student coming into the beginning of class as if learning is a struggle and they would rather be anywhere else but here. Views of what learning is, especially if they are negative views, can and do affect the way that students perform in the classroom and on the different tasks assigned to them. It is easy to confirm this in our culture, just stand on a street corner and ask people their views on math and how they would feel if they had to take a math class to keep their jobs. Negative views would abound.

Cojocariu and Boghian quote Prensky (2001) when discussing how games meet the needs for learning in part through enjoyment, passionate involvement, structure, motivation, ego gratification, adrenaline, creativity, social interactions, and emotions. At first the ego gratification threw me off but as I thought about it more, students do receive an ego boost when they do well on an assignment just like they do from achieving a new level on a game. Unfortunately our currently educational view held by some teachers is that learning should be individual instead of social. But when you look at the working world they will be entering there are few if any truly independent jobs. People are always in contact with others for a variety of different reasons in order to complete their tasks.

This article focused on the importance of helping preschool and primary teachers to understand how to use games as a learning tool within the classroom. Socially these games would encourage students to interact in a positive way to resolve a variety of different challenges. The authors gave 8 different stages that would be completed by the teachers.

  1. Introduction
  2. Title and aim of the game
  3. Presenting materials
  4. Explaining rules and giving examples
  5. Demonstrating the game by have a trial game
  6. Performing the game
  7. Complicating the game through adding versions (new rules, etc)
  8. Ending the game and Evaluating it

These steps gave teachers a clear guide on how to incorporate a game successfully into a classroom so that students would be engaged. The last step is key as through evaluation the teacher would be able to assess both the students learning and quantify if the game is worth playing again or if there needs to be modifications.

By giving constraints to the game in the beginning this allows children who are not familiar with that game genre to catch up to their peers without feeling left behind. The teacher would need to be aware of how each student is doing before complicating the game. When a game becomes too complicated then players tend to tune out or refuse to play.

The authors recognized the disadvantages of having game play in the classroom – time, teacher control, classroom interactions but then balanced them with the benefits  – students being able to develop several skills at the same time, creating a social connection, self-confidence, learning becoming pleasant and fun, discovery, and more. I agree that one of the challenges is that it is not easy to find ways to assess learning through games without having to add an additional task for each student. We know from standardized testing that both states and the federal government want to see specific data that supports the idea that students are learning and retaining information. They advocate for a need for standardization and regulation regarding the use of games in teaching-learning-evaluating.

To this idea my question is how can we as forward thinking instructors help our unfortunately test happy government to realize that this is a better way to assess then bubble tests.




Cojocariu, V and Boghian, I. ( 2014 ). Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences.Teaching the Relevance of Game-Based Learning to Preschool and Primary Teachers.  142. 640 – 646. Retrieved on Feb. 25, 2016.

Scholarly Critique #2

Primary 3-5: What about Socialization?

I selected this article because my primary interest is with young children. Though this article is for children who are older than 8 years of age, which is above the age limit for early childhood, I have found through the years that if I stay updated with research and challenges regarding older children then I am able to realize what they are missing or gaining from the young years. There are currently several trends that are being recognized in Middle and High School. One of them being students challenges regarding socializing in an appropriate manner with others, not just their peers.

This article focused on the theory created by Maria Montessori. This theory focuses on having the teacher being skilled at helping children to explore the environment, guiding children to make intellectual choices that will benefit both the child and culture, and to carry out different scientific explorations of trial and error with the goal of the children trying out new ways to explore and learn each time. Many of the materials are self correcting and children can choose to work independently or in groups. The teacher is more of a guide than a holder of the information. This encourages peer to peer relationships, thus building on socialization. Play is key. Though this article does not deeply talk about games it is the socialization that I find important to recognize because it is a key ingredient in games.

Montessori focuses on both understanding and respecting rules which is key to successful game play. Players need to respect the rules that others are following. Then as a group they change the game they need to continually show each other respect and abide by those rules. When this does not happen then there is a learning opportunity in the area of socialization. The diversity of game play opportunities within the classroom allows children to learn to socialize on a variety of levels and begin to internalize their understanding. Example: When playing a game if a person does not say anything but starts to glare at another person the child understands that without words the other person is communicating how they feel which is very important to recognize. Like what professional gamer’s call ‘tells’.

Materials in the Montessori classroom tend to be traditional without digital materials. Though some of the newer classrooms have digital technology. The focus of the classroom is on community with the general belief that digital technology can quickly become a solo activity. Teachers can observe these interactions and then begin to understand the needs of the child. If a child is new to the classroom and struggling to connect different activities/games can be introduced where the children interact in a positive manner. This type of inclusion helps the child to socialize in a positive manner which will then lead to more positive interactions outside of the game.

The games that are played in the classroom are varied but in general are constrained because each one has a specific learning goal in mind. This article did not talk about specific games but instead about the socialization of children and the importance of adults being able to step back and observe the learning that is going on. Too many times teacher feel the need to jump in to guide or remind students of the rules. Game play allows for children to self monitor as well as create new and diverse ways to explore or create a game. By allowing this process to happen without interference then children are learning a variety of different social skills that will benefit them as they continue to move through life.


Resource: Bourne, L. Retrieved on Feb 17, 2016.

Play Journal – Exploding Kittens

I played this game both via the free app and also via distance card game. Though similar there were many differences between the games. The biggest was that the free app I would play with elementary kids and the one face to face, well lets just say it is for adults with a unique set of humor…. will not be inviting my mother-in-law to play a game …. ever!

The game is a simple card game. Ok, that is what the designers want you to think when you play the free app. Which is really quite simple. Draw cards and avoid getting an exploding kitten and try to give the exploding kitten to another player. Then you see the rules for the face to face card game. Wow, there are all sorts of twists and turns. Even the people who were physically at the table were having challenges with understanding all the rules after an hour of play. There was a much deeper level of strategy and devilishness about the card game. Not to mention the comments on some of the cards really can throw one off track.

Regarding experiences: The app was very easy to play and only took me about 10-15 minutes to figure out what I needed to do. But with the card game I would want to have the instructions in front of me and then explore different options, for probably about 30, minutes before starting play. It was challenging to hear all the different interpretations of the rules without being able to see them. Of course now I want to see the rules because I want to see if their interpretations were correct.

The games design is pretty straight forward as mentioned before. It is the twists and turns of the rules (and words on the cards) that makes the game different. Though there were rules, as a card game with the diversity of the cards it would be easy to get creative and make your own rules. Though as a card game it would be impossible to add new cards without making that obvious.

The first thing I think of is Bogost’s comment that the ‘world is so much bigger and weirder than we expected’. This game is weird but the strategies part really is what the driving undercurrent that keeps the world spinning. Though very loose in connect is the idea of how having creativity within the game can engage today’s youth in learning opportunities. Standard classroom desk and lecture is not successful. Peppler and Kafal specifically talk about gaming fluencies in relation to literacy but I see this as being cross content as well. This game would peak their interest and then one could talk about stats and probability.

Learning Reflections: # Inte 5320

Learning Reflections: # Inte 5320

My first realization was the fear of playing a new game via distance that I had not encountered before. This reinforced the idea of peer to peer mentoring/instruction. When an instructor puts out a new item into the classroom without any instruction and then wonders why people are not accessing it, the reason maybe because the students have now had interactions with this type of material before. The second is, syncing in to live games from a distance, when a student cannot physically be in the room to notice body language with people they do not know very well then it makes new experiences more challenging because of the idea of failure or lack of understanding the rules. Both of these relate directly back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. When a person is uncomfortable or lacking stability in the lower areas it makes it harder to learn. Thus as I continue educating teachers it is important that I bring up these facts as well as take them into consideration in my distance classrooms. Students need support and comfort in order to learn and feel empowered to explore a game.

Though I have always believed that technology has shifted our learning silos into interdisciplinary webs, these past few weeks I have been reflection on Literacies. How I have inadvertently missed, in part, that link. The other was Affinity spaces. Though I knew there were dynamic groups/websites that changed regularly to meet the needs of the participants I had not fully explored any yet. I am interested to see how the Teachers Pay Teachers website changes over the course of the semester. Though I am assuming any great change, unless there is some breakthrough research that emerges, will be slow and needing observation over a longer course of time.

Twitter has not been a resource that I use very often. Though I do make my Ethics students explore it because of all the drama being posted compared to other social media website. Kayne – GoFundMe – wow makes my head hurt. For this class I am learning to access it more, though I regularly forget the #. I do receive information for Google Trends which has been beneficial for watching for research regarding gaming and early childhood education. There is a very slowly growing body of research regarding how teachers can use gaming to benefit young learners.

Why on earth would anyone want to have their young child learn to play games? Well this question actually comes from my mother-in-law who feels games are there to learn to manipulate other people. Game playing has several benefits for all people, especially young children. Children playing a simple game of Go Fish learn number recognition, problem solving, appropriate social interactions, determination, and how to control emotions. All of these strategies that they learn during the game are beneficial as they transition from the game into the real world.

As I move from teaching in an AA program to linking into a BA program I will need to take the gamification that I have added to a higher level of cognition. Thus I will need to continue to find current supporting research to share with students along with strategies to create games that will help students to gain a deeper level of understanding.

Affinity Space Inte 5320

I am currently following Teachers Pay Teachers. It was interesting when I first saw the list because I thought that it looked like an interesting website then when I tried to create an account it told me that I already had one. I am assuming that I must have bookmarked the page before the Great HardDrive Meltdown in March 2015. Which just proves that it is so important to have a backup of one’s bookmarks somewhere other than a document on the computer. Really taught me the importance of the Cloud.

The website is Though I was very interested in the website at first, my interest is now waning but I am going to continue to explore with the hopes that I will find some gems within the system. I have been looking through the teachers to see if I can find any recognizable names. So far no luck besides the typical corporations that have joined.

Brief overview: This is a website were anyone can join for free. It is geared for teachers of any grade and they also have a tab for Adult Learners.There are a variety of different categories to choose from: Grades, Subject, Prices, Top Resources, and Featured Themes. One can join at different levels. Shopper only or Shopper/Seller. For the Seller there are higher levels which then have a cost to participate. Teachers who choose to sell their ideas retain 60% of the profit after a payment of .30 cents per sale (much better than if they choose to write a book and sell hard copies). Members also can choose to receive emails with freebies, teaching tips, and more.

Though much of the materials that are Free are paper/worksheet driven. Not something that I support when instructing student teachers. But again I am reflecting on how could this website be used to help them to use it as a source of inspiration. To look at the worksheet called ‘Money I have, Who Has Game’ and find a way to incorporate different learning modalities.

I created a store to try it out. Now the challenge to create something that others would be interested in purchasing. By upgrading to a seller I now have access to the Seller’s Forum which I plan to explore deeper. When people want to join they can use my link  to join.

This site changes via the input of the users. Less interesting items are not displayed at the front. Sellers who have several followers and sell often are featured on the home page and rotated through. One can search to find the hot sellers and then modify their own offerings to the trends.

Scholarly Critiques – DAP and Games

I came across an article by R. Pica, ‘What Makes a Game Developmentally Appropriate?’ on the NAEYC website. I have had this discussion with my student teachers several times over the past years as they work to understand how to create games for their students that serve several purposes. The main purpose is to engage the children, encouraging them to interact socially with their peers. Thus it am always looking for different views to challenge my students.

Pica’s main discussion point is that children need to learn in a positive manner where they are not shamed. Games that included exclusion from the group, example musical chairs, make the children feel ashamed, angry, and upset. Within the article there is a link to a website that lists of games that Neil Williams feels should be removed from the educational setting –  . Instead the focus should be on games that offer problem solving, cooperation, and improved motor skills. The early years are when the greatest amount of brain connections are made in a relatively short period of time. Many of these connections will last a lifetime.

The author provides examples of how simple games like musical chairs and red rover can be modified to help children learn cooperation and positive social skills, instead of rewarding those children who are willing to hurt and push others out of the way. In musical chairs there would be two different groups. The child that did not get a chair would simply move to the other group.

Several of the games that were listed as developmentally inappropriate could be simply reworked using some of the ideas provided in the article. Young children need to learn to be a good sport and that there will be times when they do not win. But as educators we need to find ways to help them still feel successful. Instead of sitting out for 10-15 minutes. Moving on to another group while tracking how many times people change groups will become both socially positive and also build on math/statistic processing.

My remaining question and concern is that some teachers will misunderstand the importance of allowing a child to fail/lose. Life if full of challenges and it is during early childhood that teachers can start to help children to find their own resiliency. The article was very brief and really did not touch on this point which needs to be addressed.

Pica, R. (2009, March). What Makes a Game Developmentally Appropriate? Retrieved February 5, 2016, from