“Math games make learning Math fun. When we're having fun, we're more open to learning. When we're having fun, we want to keep doing whatever we're doing” (Everybody loves games…especially kids, 2012). I found this quote on a math game website, and it states quite simply why programs like Scratch work in education.
According to one article, “Current research suggests Net Gen students are more likely to engage in online games than to interact with other students or the instructor when in face-to-face learning environments” (Annetta, Murray, Laird, Bohr, & Park, 2006). Though I had not yet heard of today’s children referred to as the N generation, it certainly makes sense. The study by Annetta et al. (2006) notes, “studies have suggested students as young as second grade opted to play a geography video game rather than go to the park”. Clearly the case can be made that today’s students can and do learn through the use of games or other visual technology such as Scratch.
With your questions, I noticed two of them dealt with number concepts; that is, adding one more (“Can I add more than one?”) and infinity (“How do I extend the "forever" control?”). It is easy to see how a program such as Scratch can help explore these concepts in a visually stimulating learning environment.
By asking students to add or delete Sprites, math is happening without explicitly stating the problem. Allowing the student to manipulate the sprites appeals to different learning styles. The kinesthetic movement of the hand in creating the Sprites can really bring a concept alive, and a discussion about “forever” movement vs. a finite number of steps can take the concept of infinity from abstract to observable.
Applications such as Scratch that are free for educators are a great tool to differentiate instruction. The fact that what the student produces will be as simple or as complicated as their skills allow, really makes for an experience that tailors itself to each student’s needs. Therefore, each student will learn but at a level that suits them. Because a lesson using Scrtach can be done individually, as a team, or as a class, it really would be effective.
Everybody loves games…especially kids. (2012). Retrieved March 2012, from Learn with Math Games: http://www.learn-with-math-games.com/
Annetta, L. A., Murray, M. R., Laird, S. G., Bohr, S. C., & Park, J. C. (2006). Serious games: Incorporating video games in the classroom. Educause Quarterly, 9(3), 1-6.