3. Cultural games

Playing cultural games is another way of motivating pupils. This helps them see that mathematics is a popular, universal and historical activity. There is one very popular game (Resource 4: The cultural game of Africa) played all over Africa, which has a variety of names.

There are many versions of this game. It involves important mathematical skills and can be played by pupils of different ages.

Understanding how games can be adapted for use by pupils of different ages is important for a teacher. For example, in its simplest form, this game is suitable for younger pupils as it encourages counting and understanding the concept of one-to-one correspondence. As you extend the game, pupils learn about addition and subtraction. If you are teaching pupils at different levels, see Key Resource: Working with multigrade classes [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Case Study 3: Identifying number skills with a cultural game

Mr Mathivha told his class about a game (see Resource 4) that he had played as a child. He said they would play it in their next mathematics lesson.

He showed the class the board used and demonstrated the game by asking two pupils to play as he explained the moves. While the class watched, he encouraged them to ask questions.

He then gave out resources for pupils to play the game in pairs (four pupils per game) so they could talk with their partner about the moves. As they finished, he asked them to identify the number skills needed to play the game.

Finally, he gave the pupils permission to take the games home and play with someone there for the rest of the week.

At the end of the week, Mr Mathivha asked his class what those at home thought about the game. Many said their parents and grandparents had played the game as children.

Key Activity: Playing a cultural number game

Before you start, check you know the rules of the game (see Resource 3). Collect enough boards and 48 seeds/beans for each group.

  • Divide the class into groups of four and provide each group with a board and 48 seeds/beans.
  • Ask each group to identify two volunteers who will play the game.
  • Let two other pupils help the volunteers play.
  • While the game is in progress, move around the class, helping where needed. Listen to what the pupils are saying and write down any mathematical words they use.
  • Discuss with the pupils what you heard. What mathematical skills were they practising in the game?

2. Games and group work

Resource 1: Number bond games