Building Conceptual Understanding through Math Games

“The math games league is a way for an entire community to get involved in the education of their children in a critical area.”–Dean Budzban

Games give students the opportunity to explore fundamental concepts and learn a variety of important skills. Throw math in the mix and you have something called Math Games, where students can open their mind to new patterns, relationships, and strategies, all the while engaging with others using the structure of a sports league.

Each year, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville College of Arts and Sciences Dean Greg Budzban, PhD, leads the Alton Math Games League in cooperation with the Alton School District. The annual tournament brings together middle school players, high school coaches, parents, teachers, university partners, and community members. “The math games league is a way for an entire community to get involved in the education of their children in a critical area,” commented Budzban.

The goal of Math Games is to get students energized about math and help them understand it more clearly. A typical Math Games involves running, grabbing numbers, factoring, assigning colors, and doing math on a team, all the while interacting with structures on the fields. It is both fun and a way for students to make friends, work together, and do math together. “We’re using a peer to peer mentoring system where graduate students work directly with high school students and high school students work directly with fifth graders so that whoever is doing the learning is close in the age with the person who is teaching them. It is really good way to connect them,” stated Graduate Assistant and math mentor, Courtney Vahle.

Through Math Games, students are able to learn mathematical concepts without even realizing it.“Math games league provides a way to take an abstract subject and turn it into something that is both motivational and enjoyable,” explained Budzban. “Seeing the impact the math games has on the students is actually in many ways the most gratifying of all. To see the student engagement and their enjoyment of it and hear them talk about the experience afterwards, it is incredibly gratifying,” commented Budzban.  

Alton Math Games League consists of four teams, only one of which will advance to the national competition in Washington, D.C. on May 4, 2019. The Math Games Tournament will be held on Saturday, Mar. 30 from 9AM – 12PM. If you would like more details pertaining to the game, you can visit: Alton Math Games League and


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