Thursday, October 2, 2014

When or Why You Should or Shouldn't Use Math Practice Websites

Elsewhere on this blog, I've been making a list called Math Information and Practice Websites. This page is about my mixed feelings about this kind of practice.

The games and pages on that list have some nice features. They help you practice and memorize useful "math facts" (addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division of two numbers), and give you practice at recalling them. Many people find them fun. Some of the pages give lots of information and explanations that can help you remember or learn math topics.

Some possible disadvantages to these games are that they:
  • often emphasize speed and scoring, which can be stressful for some people and aren't all that related to math understanding
  • generally don't lead to deep thinking about math concepts (the games on my Math Websites with Creative or Complicated Games list tend to be better for this)
  • usually do not connect different math ideas; the problems are narrowly focused on certain skills
  • hardly ever require complicated problem solving strategies
  • may not meet middle school Common Core standards
  • often do not involve "real world" problems or make you curious
These websites could definitely make your life easier by speeding up certain calculations, and some of the math teaching information is excellent. But remember: if you find a game on that list is stressing you out, or you're just learning how to move through a Pacman-type maze fast but not actually improving your recall of any new math facts, the game is not making your life easier and maybe you should go do something more fun or thought-provoking! Just make sure to stop and think every once in a while about whether the game is helping with your learning goals or not.

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