Too Many Games!


In the last post, Why Bring Games into your Classroom, I presented several advantages for bringing games into your classroom. Naturally, the next question is: Which games should I bring into my classroom?

The market is over-saturated with educational and learning games; so choosing a good game for your students can be quite time consuming or very frustrating and confusing with so many similar games. However, there are some initial steps that can be taken to help make your time and effort much more efficient.

What defines a ‘good game for your classroom’? Here are 4 characteristics:

  • Play-ability (Engaging/Willing to play again)
  • Learning Objectives (What is the game trying to do/teach?)
  • Differentiation (Can you play at different levels, speeds, etc?)
  • Critical and Strategic Thinking (Does the game make them plan ahead/problem solve?)

There are, literally, thousands of games per subject available on the web. Quite frankly, many of them are just not playable or that engaging. Below are four points to consider as you try to find games to add to your classroom.

First, Do you enjoy playing the game?

Not a catch-all for finding that great game to help your kids learn. However, if you, personally, do not enjoy the game, it is a good indicator that your children or students will probably not enjoy playing either.

Second, Rely on Trusted Resources

Rely on a few trusted resources, either personal or internet, and avoid large, general searches. It’s an ocean of apps, and one can quickly drown and get easily lost in the navigation. BrainPOP’s GameUP site, for example, has a limited number of games (less than 5% of games that are submitted get added to their site). is another site that uses teacher & parent reviews to rate the games and sites.

Third, Find out what your students are playing

Ask your students to show them some of the (educational/puzzle/strategy) games that they enjoy, then play it yourself. Does it stimulate critical thinking? Is the game actually meeting educational objectives? If the game meets the characteristics defined as a ‘good game’ above, then bring it in! Not all of the games they play may be a good fit for your personality or class, but they can give you ideas and be a great filter. A good example is Minecraft, where a huge educational community has grown up around that game.

Fourth, Think outside the box

Many games, not necessarily labeled ‘educational’ are great to bring in to your classroom that can provide plenty of learning opportunities and stimulate strategic and critical thinking.

  • Computer: Minecraft, SimCity, Sid Meier’s Civilization, Portal*, The Talos Principle
  • Classic Games: Monopoly, Risk, Stratego, Scrabble, Clue, Blokus, MasterMind, Yahtzee, Checkers, Chutes-and-Ladders (Pre-k)
  • Contemporary/Modern Board Games: Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Forbidden Desert, Forbidden Island, Qwirkle
  • Puzzle: Sudoku, Kakuro

The point is also not to be afraid to experiment! Looking at games from a different point of view may give you a great idea!

Tell us in the comments what games you’ve brought into the classroom! What games to your kids enjoy playing?


*Portal does have several levels that involve robotic gun turrets that shoot at the player, however.

The Game is Afoot! – An Overview on bringing Games into your Teaching


Why bring games into your classroom?

I have always been a fan of games. I love playing all types…Computer games, board games, card games, it does not matter to me! In fact, I enjoy games so much that I began making my own when my family purchased our first computer (which was 1981!!!). When I began my teaching career (now 15 years ago!) I wanted my class to understand that math can be fun– by finding ways to make a game of the topics I was teaching (especially fundamental concepts). And all this was before the explosion of on-line/mobile games and readily available technology.

I also want to make the point that I am not always referring to computer games. There are plenty of games available ( “24” and “Set” are two examples; Additionally, refer to this post on games for preschoolers and early education.)

So, why bring games into your classroom? Here’s 7 (seven!) reasons:

Games are inherently more engaging.

Which is more engaging– doing a review a worksheet or 10 problems written on the board…or playing a game that reviews the same concepts? I realize that not all students will enjoy playing games, BUT, given the choice… I believe (and have experienced) students will choose playing the game.

Games stimulate critical thinking

Games will force the player to think about other things as they are using their math skills. Students will need to ‘think ahead’ or develop strategies to finish a level or win, either against an opponent or against the game itself.

Games practice problem solving

Math is about problem solving– especially when students have to apply many parts of their learning to solve a problem they haven’t seen before. Each time they play a game multiple times, they will find themselves in different situations…What do they need to do to win this time (or just do better at the game)?

Games are easy to differentiate

You can group kids by ability level or play ‘easy’ or ‘hard’ versions of games. I specifically created Addition Blocks and Multiplication Blocks to have 3 speed and difficulty settings, plus multiple game modes.

(Computer/App/Mobile) Games meet the students need for visual stimulation

No doubt about it, even the youngest of kids are now iPad savvy and are engaging in a lot of screen time. Bringing in good, applicable games will meet their need for the visual stimulation (in moderation, of course).

Classroom Games meet the students need for socialization

Most kids love to talk, play, and work together. Classroom games bring all the students together to play a game. Even a game like Percent Bingo, where each student has their own board, the students are all playing as a group.

Games are, simply, more fun.

What would you rather do? Play a game or sit in class and do worksheets or problems from a book?

One last important item. Do YOU enjoy playing games? If you do not enjoy playing games yourself, then trying to bring in games to your classroom may be difficult. A teacher’s lack of interest would noticed/sensed by the student. If you are not having fun, the students will not have fun.