Gaming as a Teaching Tool

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Pimpcron explains how beneficial gaming can be for a developing mind.

Cheers blogosphere! It is I, Pimpcron here with a discussion on how we can use gaming for child development.

Math

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(Sign) “Mom, this is boring, can’t I just kill some Trolls?”

I’m sure this comes off as a no-brainer to you, but there is generally a lot of math in gaming that you have to do in your head. And what is so great (and devious) about this mental math that we do during games, is that we do it without thinking because we are being distracted by the game. Sometimes you are adding to see if you penetrated enemy armor, or multiplying to find out how many Ork Boy attacks you’re getting. Maybe you are just making an army list with pen and paper which involves multiplication and addition. Or something as simple as determining which number is greater for Initiative in close combat.
And what about all of that measuring we do? Measuring is also a very useful ability and helps reinforce the number line and order of numbers. It also helps with greater than/less than judging because if you are looking for the number 24 and are at the number 15, you need to know that 24 is bigger so you look in the right direction.

Reading

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Or you could always just use the threat, “If you don’t read, you’ll turn into a Snooki.”

As they say, practice makes perfect. And whether you know it or not, every time you crack open a codex and read some fluff or army rules, you are practicing reading. I have a friend who claims that getting into 40k lore as a child helped improve his reading (he had been lagging behind in school). He became so drawn in by the stories that he accidentally practiced reading any chance he got by devouring fluff. And thanks to accidental learning, our brain will accidentally pick up new things just by being exposed to them. It will help improve your child’s vocabulary as well as help their reading comprehension and speed. Now of course, not all lore is appropriate for children and it’s the parents’ call on what their kid should be reading. But the key is to get the child hooked so that they want to keep reading, and the rest works itself out.

Decision Making

Everything from our army list, to wargear, to target priority are easy and fun avenues to help develop a child’s decision making skills. “Okay Little Timmy, do you think you should assault that Imperial Knight with your Grots? Or should you just run away?” If Timmy chooses to assault, maybe he needs work on his combat decisions. But that’s okay! Everybody has to start somewhere and everybody is different. The kid who starts out assaulting Knights with grots may just end up being the kid who keeps his Never-Say-Die attitude, but learns to take better-equipped units. You never know, he might even take that tenacity with him in the work force and beyond. Which also brings me to another point . . .

Self Discovery

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This just warms my cold, ancient heart. Notice how the UPS guy is cautiously backing away. “What on Earth did I just interrupt?”

Children and Adults alike can learn a lot about themselves from playing games. Children can learn to be good sports, have mercy when need be, and learn from their mistakes without getting mad. When you are in “combat”, no matter how miniature and plastic it is, the choices you make are from your gut. And you can quickly learn which of those gut reactions to listen to and which to ignore with some trial and error. This can actually have positive life consequences once you learn what you have a tendency for naturally.
Not only can a child learn a lot about themselves through gaming, but they also pick up a lot of social interaction. They will learn how to deal with poor sports, tone down their lists for casual games, and crank them up for competitive ones. And what about the friendships they can make through their gaming group? I know from personal experience that your gaming-centered friendships can lead to “regular” friendships and one day you find yourself just hanging out with them just for the sake of their company.

Dexterity Skills

What about all of the hobbying we do? Cutting, trimming, gluing, painting? Obviously small children shouldn’t be around a hobby knife, etc. but older children may be mature enough. And those fine motor skills are also something that is very important to development at any age. And when you factor in choosing a paint scheme for your army, and all of the practice in painting they will do, it becomes a down-right art class. This is another great way to calm your children down and have them focus on something for an extended period of time that doesn’t have a glowing screen.

A Relationship

Father and son laughing

“We totally wrecked that necromancer Dad!”

What better way to get closer to your child than hobbying, painting, playing, discussing, and sharing highs and lows? Sit down and talk to them while you both hobby. Discuss the types of people they end up meeting while playing the game. Be there for a supportive shoulder when they lose and be there to cheer them on when they win. Nothing warms my heart more than seeing families gaming together, no matter what the system. D&D, Magic, Warhammer, Heroclix. You really can’t go wrong with any of them.
I know they can all be expensive hobbies, but the skills they will learn are priceless. And the time you will spend with your child is something you both will cherish. And there is no putting a price on that.

Do you guys have any suggestions for using gaming as a teaching tool?

Want to witness my slow descent into madness first-hand? Check out my blog at www.diceforthedicegod.com

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top image from http://chapter-56.blogspot.com/2008/02/dice.html

  • Napo81

    I would add….. learning to lose, learning to fight against the odds and against badluck. Sometimes you got so unlucky in WH40K that would throw the table away. But you must keep going on, as in real life. And sometimes, miracles happen!

    • yorknecromancer

      Totally agree with this.

      Learning that it’s okay to lose – and especially learning how to learn from failure – are absolutely critical life skills. No-one goes through their life succeeding at everything (or in fact, most things) and learning to accept failure as a step on the road to success is hugely important.

      Also, this is a good article.

      • Napo81

        I’m annoyed by people thinking WH40K is just a game. You learn more managing a budget playing WH 40 K ( or any strategic game ) than anything else. You now what count and what doesn’t, and you know you can’t have everything you want.

      • Houghten

        Me, I only ever learned to accept failure as a step on the road to the next failure.

        • bginer

          That should be on a T shirt…

  • Alienerd

    Yugioh helped me with my maths when I was younger, especially being able to add and subtract large numbers quickly. Plus the social aspect of tournaments, and understanding that sometimes you lose, sometimes you win, but that’s part of reflecting and improving.

  • yer articles are getting better by leaps n bounds! Enjoyed it. I like the last point the best, Ive watched buddies with older kids than my own and I look forward to playin games with them.
    Another point Id raise is that if they do get onto gaming you can use it as an opportunity to make them work to get money to buy minis of their own. Too many entitled punk kids nowadays not workin fer their keep.
    Keep up the good work dude.

    • pimpcron

      Thanks Alaric! In this day in age, it can be harder and harder for parents to get close to to their kids. I think we should grab them by the imagination and hold on as long as possible. Ya know, you’re suggestion about getting a job is really great. I wish I’d thought of it.

    • GulMek

      This^ …. like, to the word. Nice ninja skills.

      Magic is like the only reason i have any relationship with my step brother… he was a punk teenager and then he got me into magic. We kind of needed that one in-road and then he realized how much we had in common. Plus my father taught me everything i kow about model building and brought me to IPMS competitions (http://www.ipmsusa.org/about/index.shtml). I work as a prototype model maker that started out working at Hasbro headquarters when i was just shy of twenty. This article is true in every word.

  • jasonsation

    Would love to see an AP Statistics lesson based around the odds of taking town a Knight with a lasgun

    • lorieth

      I used to teach an undergraduate course on Mathematical Modelling using 40k — I had an entire problem class focused on difference equations, statistics and the Lanchester model with 40k as the example application; and let’s face it, when two of the lectures are on Chaos, how could I resist?

      I still would teach maths this way, but I switched courses and I haven’t worked out how to link tensors to 40k yet. If anyone has any bright ideas, let me know — until then, I’ll stick to copious Matrix and Transformers references.

      • pimpcron

        Sounds like you’re a cool teacher! Where do I sign up?

  • David

    The main reason I play RPGs with my kids is language skills.

    • pimpcron

      I play RPGs with my kids too. It really helps develop problem-solving skills as well.

      • David

        Both of my daughters have delayed speach issues. Rpg’s really help this. My oldest has issues with tenses and the youngest with pronouns. Making them speak out everything in a fun setting helps

  • Bobsyouruncle

    Good article , the community just needs to find as many ways of putting these ideas into practise everything from parents teaching their children to the gaming companies getting their products out there and games that are easy for kids to enter .

  • Divergent_Reality

    I use 40k and D&D when teaching statistics and probability in math. It is particularly helpful when the kids are familiar with rather game system.

  • Coolwala the Ugly Dog

    These sound like good ideas. Now I just have to make some kids. . .

    • V10_Rob

      A fun kit to assemble (particularly scratchbuilt), but you’re going to have to wait several years before their codex entries are fleshed out enough to actually use them.

  • ProfPlum

    Great article! My 12 and 10 year old boys are very much into gaming with me. The gaming community can be very positive in developing social skills in boys in particular, who often don’t have role models outside of sports. Gamers have been fantastic in providing a sense of community and belonging that young kids need. As gamers in their 20s and 30s start having kids, gaming is a healthy shared activity for both parents and kids to enjoy – it’s parent time and family time at once. We should do more as a community to foster this. At a minimum, please don’t avoid playing the young kids in your local scene. They may not be the ideal challenge, but they will really benefit from you showing them the ropes. Please also bring them to GTs and RRTs with you. If there are any efforts in developing kids 40k, I’d love to help out!

    • pimpcron

      Thanks ProfPlum.

      I think this is a great avenue for building relationships with children and the community.

  • bginer

    Nice article man. Thanks.

    • pimpcron

      Thank you bginer!

  • jeff white

    The number one benefit of simulating complex interactive environments such as those in wargaming is the meta-level discussion over rules that regulate invested participant success and failure, affording a rare opportunity to discuss laws of mutual governance, arbitrate over their modification, perhaps optimizing for recognized virtues rather than perhaps financial investment/return or designer oversight however closely related these may be. There is no other forum in which this discourse is so integral to the activity, and changes in explicit writ of governance so open, and this makes 40k important, bottlefleet gothic important, because someday these young people will have to run this fkt up wrld, and if there is no skill for civil discourse, when our public servants talk peace with ‘fk the e.u.!’ and so on, there is – in that future – only war. Seriously. This is how important Warhammer really is… And this is why GW corporatism is so appalling, because the community is the breeding ground for statesmen, people who can provide the cooperative umbrella under which healthy competition can ever ONLY exist. Competition, as a global umbrella, with nukes is a bad idea. Cooperation, with nukes, under which competition can continue as the pro-social force that it can be, requires leadership that can discourse over the mutual returns of guiding rulesets. People complain about game balance because they are trying to get their heads around the game system, as a whole, in order to encourage the healthiest and longest lasting society invested in mutual benefit over the longest run. This is exactly what the wrld needs today, as ever. This is the number one educational benefit of these sorts of games, and this sort of community, and this sort of investment, because it is the only one that I can think of that affords these sorts of opportunities, to develop these sorts of public practical reasoning skills.

    • pimpcron

      Well said!

  • chloe

    http://www.gifsforum.com/images_new/gif/other/grand/Ellie-54c2dfb50ebdb.gif

    Man…that fat girl is pretty hot…She looks like an overweight snooki…….her skin looks smooth