Good games promote great thinking. They can also be fun and motivating. Students are often less concerned about making mistakes when playing a game, and a teacher can gain useful information on students’ thinking by observing their actions and decisions.
Group games encourage students to interact, allowing them to observe and learn from the strategies used by their peers. Games can also help ELLs to interact more easily because language comprehension is usually less of a barrier once the rules of a game are clear.
Strategy games require students to apply logic, make predictions, and adapt their decisions in response to new circumstances or information. All of these are important mathematical processes. See Gordon Hamilton’s video on the benefits of using board games on the “math pickle” website (www.mathpickle.com/Videos.html).
Refraction (http://games.cs.washington.edu/refraction) is an excellent example of a thinking game that is designed to support and develop students’ understandings of fractions.