Week 9: How do you currently infuse play into your class? How might you change this as a result of some of the ideas you have encountered?

I am still struggling to find ways to gamify my high school math class.  Part of the reason is my inability to fully embrace gamification.  I know that it has the potential for engaging students, and benefiting learning, but I am not a very creative person to begin with.  With that in mind, I searched the Internet for other teachers that have tried to gamify their math class and found some interesting tips and ideas.

Alex Sarlin and David Dockterman presented at the 2013 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Conference about The Gamification of Math.  They shared four tips on how a math class environment should look like.

  • Use faster, more detailed feedback.
  • Create progressively difficult situations with a 50% chance of success.
  • Be objective and meritocratic – praise effort and mastery.
  • Destigmatize failure by creating activities that demand multiple failure cycles.

I think using game mechanics would create the type of environment that they shared.  They also described some badges that can be given in a gamified math classroom.


I think I could use these ideas along with some others that would help gamify my classroom.  I acquired a class set of clickers that I will begin to use when I become familiar with their use and implement using them during lessons, assessments, and activities.  Having clickers would help with providing immediate feedback, providing situations with a 50% chance of being correct, being objective and meritocratic, and allow students to try and not be afraid to fail.  Derek Bruff of Vanderbilt University wrote a great article about how, why, and when to use clickers in class.  (2016).  I think using clickers would provide a gamified element in my math class.

At this time, if I had to describe how I infuse play into my class, I would have to say rarely, to not at all.  The only element of game play I have is giving students a choice to do at least any 10 problems in a math section from our textbook!  Not much, but I think it gives some students a sense of ownership and personal challenge to do any problem available to them.  Some choose easy problems, some choose the most difficult ones in that particular section, and most will choose a variety of easy and difficult problems.  I used to assign particular problems, but have abandoned that routine in my teaching the last 3 years, in favor of this new routine, and I think it has improved the attitudes of my students about math.  There’s no excuse now that they are doing the same problem over and over because I assigned 12-50 all.  My rationale is that if a student “knows” how to solve a particular type of problem, they don’t need to solve 20 more similar problems just because it was assigned.


Bruff, Derek. (2016). Classroom Response Systems (“Clickers”). Center for Teaching – Vanderbilt University. Retrieved from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/clickers/

Matera, Michael. Explore Like a Pirate: Engage, Enrich, and Elevate Your Learners with Gamification and Game-inspired Course Design, Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. Kindle Edition.

Sarlin, Alex; Dockterman, David. (2013) The Gamification of Math: Research, Gaming Theory, and Math Instruction. NCTM 2013 Annual Meeting and Exposition Presentation. Retrieved from https://nctm.confex.com/nctm/2013AM/webprogram/Handout/Session15597/NCTMGamificationofMath.pdf



5 thoughts on “Week 9: How do you currently infuse play into your class? How might you change this as a result of some of the ideas you have encountered?

  1. Gerald,

    I am also struggling with the idea of gamifying my classroom, but for me I think it is a philosophical struggle. With each class that I have ever taught, one of my top priorities was to teach students how to be intrinsically motivated, to move away from the rewards systems and want to learn for the sake of learning. Gamification seems like a step in the other direction with its points and badges and “get out of work free” cards. I do incorporated more game-based learning now than I ever have in the past because I can see the value in practice and discovery through play, but gamification, to me, seems like a reinvention of the star chart.

    Here is a link to an article that I found reflected many of my feelings and is written much more eloquently than what I wrote above: http://www.nea.org/tools/59782.htm



  2. I have been diligently searching for resources online where high school math teachers have used gamification. I swear I can count on one hand the “hits” I’ve gotten. What’s more interesting is the fact that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) holds annual meetings for decades where hundreds of math teachers across the country get together and discuss, present, and highlight ideas, teaching tips, trending teaching methods, etc. and I could only find one presentation on this topic. Gamification, not playing games. There are some that highlight playing math games. That doesn’t give me confidence that this will work in the high school arena. I appreciate your article and agree with those points. What’s more depressing is most examples of gamification describe a social studies class! I haven’t seen many natural or physical sciences either. I think high school mathematics has it’s own issues with students not understanding material, let alone “playing” a game to learn. Anything beyond 8th grade math is difficult for many students (including adults!) I don’t think games are going to help. I think a more valuable use of my time in class is to teach growth mindset. It would be great to have students learn it’s okay to fail, then try again, but it doesn’t have to be in a game environment. Thanks for your perspective! 🙂


  3. Gerald- I understand as well. I am still trying to embrace gamification as well. I am not a gamer and don’t play games in my class except Kahoot and that is only once in a while. You know you can use Kahoot to play math game with the students. Have you use this before? So these badges are they already created or do you have to created them? I think that the students would like that to choose their own problems. That is a good idea!


  4. Gerald,

    I visited the clicker site in your references: https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/clickers/

    and what stood out to me were the many types of clicker questions this system can be used for: Recall, Conceptual Understanding, Application, Critical Thinking, Student Perspective, Confidence Level, Monitoring as well as classroom experiments.

    It makes sense not to require students to solve all of the problems if they don’t need that much practice. I can dream up ways that they could apply problems in real world situations by using math; but I am picturing that you have several larger classes of students per day, and little access to something like a shop (wood, mechanics, sewing, a 3D printer for geometry, etc.) and little time between classes.

    Maybe you should not underestimate the power of clickers! I want to try them out. Though you acquired a set, do you know where to purchase one? It seems like a great tool for teachers to take turns using.


    • If you do a Google shopping search on “Classroom Response Systems”, you will get a variety of vendors that offer these handheld devices. They seem a little spendy at first, but I think the benefits out weight the cost. I was lucky to get a set from my school’s science department that wasn’t using them.


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