By Mark Snoad, Ormiston Senior College
Are board games still a thing? With the explosion of high-quality, online games, who would bother with a static physical game that involves communicating with real people? But it is precisely the collaborative interaction that makes board games a success in the classroom. They can strengthen skills in communication, problem-solving and decision-making, all whilst having fun. Of course, it will depend on the game and the intention of the teacher. And while it is tempting to roll out a board game as a last period Friday, give-the-teacher-a-break activity, it is possibly akin to using an iPhone as a paperweight. Used well, board games will inform, inspire and educate, as well as entertain.
My journey with board games began with my struggle to help students understand economic and business concepts, something not usually within the purview of the typical teenager. In an attempt to build some energy in the class, I turned to Monopoly, one of the world’s most popular board games. It was played in pairs, with one person acting at the ‘player’ and the second person acting as their accountant.
There was a burst of enthusiasm but it was very short-lived. It took far too long to play and once someone starting winning, everyone knew they would end up winning. So, the game itself did not motivate the students and was also not very educational.
So, I created my own board game, the latest iteration of which is called Gumption. A name resonating with the give-it-a-go enterprising attitude that many New Zealanders practice. Gumption is a Monopoly-style game featuring the economic resources of actual New Zealand businesses. Players compete for these resources in a race to be the first one to own two complete businesses. Gumption can be played in less than an hour, it is more unpredictable than Monopoly and there isn’t a mysterious power giving players a cash injection every time they complete a circuit of the board. In fact, I purposefully made money in Gumption scarcer to allow for greater learning.
The game was originally designed for secondary school teachers to help teach economic and business concepts, such as economic resources, the role of government and enterprising behaviour. In this context, students are developing their conceptual understandings about scarcity, resource use, government intervention in the market and the New Zealand business environment.
More recently, it’s been used by Maths teachers in primary and intermediate schools to help teach financial literacy. Here, students are developing their understanding of money, spending, credit, financial management, goal-setting and risk management. These learning outcomes are found in the Financial Capability Progressions in the New Zealand Curriculum. Schools such as Alfriston School and Rotorua Intermediate School are using Gumption to deliver the Financial Capability learning outcomes to students.
“Alfriston School has been playing Gumption in its Maths tumbles for nearly two terms throughout the Senior and Intermediate School with great enthusiasm,” said Phil Funnell, Numeracy Leader. “The students have been learning many elements of financial literacy, including budgeting, negotiating and strategic planning. The game encourages team work, with a competitive element, that relates to real-life situations, especially for our students’ future. The children are enthused about the process of buying and selling, while being introduced to new mathematical vocabulary that is both challenging and relevant.”
As for my journey as an educator, I’ve sought to provide authentic learning experiences for my students. Learning that is relevant, meaningful and enjoyable. I’ve found that board games achieve this goal when they are fully integrated into learning programmes, when they are purposefully used to build conceptual understanding and insight. And I’ve also found that board games are a great way to also breathe energy and life into a topic.
MARK SNOAD IS ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL AT ORMISTON SENIOR COLLEGE IN AUCKLAND.
FOR MORE ON GUMPTION GO TO PLAYGUMPTION.CO.NZ
Gumption competition winners
We had five Gumption board games to win in a recent competition. Congratulations to Iresha Dona, Woodford House School, Havelock North, Matthew Jackson, Te Kauwhata Primary School, Waikato, Louise Davy, Southbrook School, Rangiora, Reece Geursen, Onslow College, Wellington, and Lyndon Clark, Collingwood Area School, Golden Bay.