When Games Aren't Good

We often assume that games are automatically motivating to students.

After all, we see them playing games in their free-time all the time, so it seems logical to conclude that if we make the learning into a game, the children will be more motivated to learn.

But consider this scenario: what if I asked you to run a race against an Olympic Sprinter--in front of all your friends and family?

How would you feel? Scared? Intimidated? Afraid of getting embarrased? 

After all, you and everyone present knows you are going to lose. 

And that's how many students feel when they are put in the situation of a competitive game where the criteria for victory is speed.

Say your teacher organizes a friendly flash-card contest to make learning multiplication more fun.

Then you are called out in front of all your peers and matched up against the kid who's fastest at times tables.

The game is motivating and empowering to the other kid, because it gives the other person a chance to shine and validate their sense of self.

For you on the other hand, the game is just another opportunity to feel bad about yourself.