Skip to content

Learning Maths by Playing

15 Aug 2011

Chongfu School Maths Games Day

Concentration and quick counting during a Maths Warriors battle.

More than 200 pupils from five primary schools gathered at Chongfu School on 15 July 2011 for a very special Games Day. Instead of sweating it out under the sun, the pupils put up a display of mental agility in the school hall as they pitted their brains against competing teams in the N2 Cluster Maths Games Day.

Organised by Chongfu School, Maths Games Day involved participants from Ahmad Ibrahim Primary School, Jiemin Primary School, Northland Primary School, Xishan Primary School as well as the host school. With the theme 'Let's Play', the event saw pupils taking part in Sudoku Challenge, Maths Warrior and Numero tournaments over two hours of friendly competition.

Playing with numbers

For Chongfu School, Maths Games Day is a milestone that points to the success of a Maths curriculum in which games are an integral part of learning the subject. This programme began in 2010 with the introduction of weekly Sudoku sessions. Sudoku is a logic game in which a player inserts the numbers 1 to 9 into a grid of nine squares while ensuring that each row has only one of each number. Solving each Sudoku puzzle involves patience and concentration, and the pupils learn to observe and detect patterns in the grid, a process that develops their cognitive and reasoning abilities.

Chongfu School Maths Games Day

Teams from five schools competed in the Math Games Day.

Mr Vikneswaran Subramaniam, the teacher in charge of the Maths Games Programme, explained that Primary 1 pupils tackle a simple 3x3 Sudoku matrix, before moving on to a 6x6 grid in Pri 2. From Pri 3 to Pri 6, the pupils work on 9x9 matrices of increasing difficulty. "Pupils in each level are taught to look for visual clues in the puzzles," he added.

Another game, Maths Warriors, helps Primary 3 pupils acquire a sense of numbers and mental strategies that will prove useful when they have to tackle complex mathematical problems. For pupils in Pri 4 and Pri 5, Kakuro offers a mathematical version of the crossword puzzle that reinforces the concept of number bonds, while Numero, a card-based strategy game, hones the numeracy and problem-solving skills of its players.

Chongfu School Maths Games Day

Games make learning Maths fun and develop a sense for numbers.

Giving his take on doing Maths through games, Dylan Lieo, a Pri 4 pupil declared, "Games make learning more fun! It helps me to think out of the box." Meanwhile, Dylan's classmate Joel Chia admitted that he found Maths a "moderately difficult" subject but added that "Playing games sharpens my Maths skills."

Apart from adding an element of fun to a traditionally dry subject, the games also provide an alternative mode of assessment to the usual pen-and-paper tests. According to Mr Vikneswaran, this involves games where there is no element of luck such as Sudoku. "The skills tested include number sensing, logical reasoning and number bonding," he explained.

Contests that count and require co-operation

The other schools in the cluster currently use Maths games on an ad-hoc basis rather than as part of a formal curriculum, according to Mr Vikneswaran. But interest and support for the use of games in Maths is growing and this was evident at the Cluster Maths Games Day, where intense gazes and number crunching accompanied each competitive round. It was not about school rivalry either, as the pupils also took part in a collaborative event in which participants from different schools teamed up to take on a barrage of Maths puzzles.

Chongfu School Maths Games Day

In one segment, pupils from different schools teamed up to solve mathematical puzzles.

Rebecca Tan, another Pri 4 pupil, recounts her experience as a Maths Warriors player during the Games Day. "It was challenging and I can make friends with pupils from other schools when I compete against them," she stated. Her classmate Winston Kwan has fond memories of the event even though he rues his team's defeat at Numero. "I still had fun participating in the puzzle games as it was very challenging," he recalled. "We had to co-operate with one another to complete the puzzles."

Looking ahead, Mr Vikneswaran shared that the school was working to spell out the level-specific learning goals of each Maths game to give the programme a more structured framework. Also in the pipeline were plans to include Kakuro as an alternative assessment method.

Chongfu School Maths Games Day

Maths Games Day winners received medals for their quick thinking.

The thrill of competing with schoolmates and against the clock will remain though. Throughout the academic year, there are regular interclass Maths Games Competitions as well as an annual Maths Day, in which pupils pit their speed and sense of numbers with each other to see if they have the skills that count. Given such displays of confidence, it's no wonder Mr Vikneswaran revealed that the teachers are even roping in some players to act as pupil facilitators to teach Numero and Maths Warriors to their peers.