Games That Teach You About Math (Sudoku, Rubi...

Games That Teach You About Math (Sudoku, Rubik's Cude, Daraughts & Chess)
by Kenneth Williams

Wouldn't it be nice if you could find a way to improve
your math skills - without doing math?

Strange as it may sound, you can become better at math
in a most unlikely way:

Playing games.

Before I get into the games themselves, let's look at
mathematics and the mental skills involved.

To be good at math, you need to be a problem-solver,
because math is ultimately about solving problems.

And to solve problems, you need to use logic and
reasoning. You need to be a clear thinker.

At the same time, you need the ability to think
laterally and go beyond the obvious.

Math often requires you to use your imagination,
whether it's adding a few numbers in your head, or
picturing a geometric object from an exam question.

And you need a strong sense of pattern. Simple
patterns include multiplication tables, number
sequences, geometrical arrays. Being able to spot
patterns is a big key to cracking many math problems.

So the five key mental skills are: solving problems,
logical thinking, lateral thinking, visualization, and
recognizing patterns.

While you'll develop these skills naturally as you
progress through your math course, you can give them a
boost by playing a few games.

Which games? Here are my top five:

#1 Sudoku

Invented in Japan and now popular worldwide, this game
involves organizing digits into groups.

Logic features significantly in Sudoku, and the
challenge of combining logic on the 9x9 grid develops
reasoning powers and spatial awareness.

Sudoku helps you develop an organized mind, while at
the same time forcing you to think about the "bigger
picture". It's a game where the whole is the sum of the
parts. And that's important in mathematics.

#2 Rubik's Cube

The famous multicolored cube does more than teach you
what a cube looks like!

Rubik's Cube develops understanding of rotational
symmetry and also the important ability to visualize in
3 dimensions.

What's more, learning to solve the cube improves your
step-by- step thinking approach to problem solving.

Essentially you learn the core skill of solving a big
problem by breaking it down into tiny steps, then
following each step in the right sequence. And this is
how you solve any math problem.

#3 Draughts & Chess

I've lumped these together because, although the former
is easier to play than the latter, they both develop
similar skills.

Draughts and chess develop your spatial thinking
skills, where you have to be aware of imaginary lines
running in several directions.

In fact the mind of a chess player would look like a
series of laser beams firing in many directions.

Such thinking is particularly useful in geometry,
although improving your imagination is always a plus in
math.

These games also make you more analytical. You acquire
the ability to think in terms of possibilities,
examining different outcomes, before deciding on a
specific next step.

As in any game of strategy, you need to think laterally
too, to outfox your opponent.

#4 Card Games

Almost any card game is based on patterns.

For example, in one game, each player has seven cards
in the first round, then six cards in the next round,
and so on.

In another game, the objective is to collect as many
cards as possible in the same suit, whether it's
hearts, clubs, diamonds, or spades.

It sounds simple. But playing a few rounds of Gin Rummy
really can help sharpen your math instincts.

#5 Geometric Puzzles

With these, you are given several small pieces of wood
or plastic. And the idea is to arrange them into a
given shape.

These problems develop your spatial thinking.

And they also challenge your creative problem-solving
skills.

They can be solved logically. However more often they
require lateral thinking skills, where you have to
arrange the pieces in a way that's not obvious.

So the next time you see one of these puzzles fall out
of a Xmas cracker, give it a go.

All five games also enhance memory.

And another nice feature about all these games is that
you can play them at a level that is suitable for you.

Okay.

So you won't get far in math just by playing games and
never opening a math book again.

But try any (or all) of these five games from time to
time, and you may notice that math becomes a whole lot
easier.

About the Author

Kenneth Williams is a mathematician, teacher, and
creator of the popular "Fun With Figures" system
featuring the "Mental Math Brain Trainer" which shows
you the easy way to calculate in your head. Visit
Kenneth's site at: http://www.FunWithFigures.com