While we may not have been complimentary about Niantic’s Pokemon Go recently, we do honestly think there is time for a spot of gaming now and then. Games can be addictive and often bring out a competitive nature that many of us did not realise we had. Both of these elements are something that has fascinated non-gaming brands for decades, with many now trying to take advantage of them through the concept of gamification.

What Is Gamification?

The idea is to take rules or elements associated with playing games and apply them to other areas to keep people engaged. Remarkably, the idea is now a whole area of business, with Credence Research findings suggesting that the market for gamification is expected to grow by more than 23 percent between 2016 and 2023.

But what are common examples of this idea? Well, you may be familiar with rewards schemes, for example collecting a star at Starbucks every time you buy a coffee, you’ll have realised how satisfying, even addictive it can be to collect such points, in order to get an item for free or a discount. Quite simply, in Starbucks, more stars means more free drinks and this idea is huge across the world with the scheme having more than 12 million users in the US alone. There are also fitness apps which actively encourage you to share times and challenge friends to do better, while Chore Wars gives housemates the chance to track each other’s efforts to keep the house tidy and gain points by doing basic tasks.

Gamification is about making difficult, mundane or unexciting tasks or activities fun, so it is unsurprising that there is an equivalent concept in education. Games-based learning focuses on keeping people of all ages switched on to lessons and inspired in a range of subjects. According to research by eLearning Industry, 79 per cent of both students and those being trained in business said taking this kind of approach would keep them productive and motivated.

A Natural Fit:

We think it particularly works well when it comes to maths. According to more research, this time from YouGov, one in six adults are embarrassed by their difficulties with the subject and 30 per cent had always found it uninspiring. However, this does not have to be the case.

Many games are obviously based on numbers, so using them to teach people about ideas which they may not be too sure on seems to be a perfect, covert approach to learning. Take a concept like probability for example. Explaining it can be difficult without using relatable examples, so this is where an understanding of sports betting or games based on odds can come in handy.

“Wheel of fortune” (CC BY 2.0) by Zdenko Zivkovic

The type of game we’re used to seeing James Bond play in a glamorous location, roulette is very popular in both casinos and online gaming websites. In the French version of the game, there are 36 numbers and a single zero on the wheel. If the ball lands on the latter, all bets go to the house. This means that the probability that a single number will come up is 35 to 1, but the game offers far more betting options than just that. For instance, if you want to be on the colour the next winning number will have, you need to calculate that there are 18 red slots, 18 black slots and one zero, and do the correct calculations until you realise that there’s a 48.65% chance you’ll get it right. 

Taking this idea further, all the above statistical probabilities shift for even the slightest change to the format of the roulette. French roulette is just one of a number of popular variants of the game, which include premier roulette and American roulette, as we see on the Betway casino page. The latter, American roulette, is identical to the French roulette with the addition of one more pocket: 00 – an extra zero. All of a sudden, the odds we discussed above shift, with the addition of just one number. The odds against winning when betting on a single number are now 36 to 1, while if you want to bet on red, you’ll find out there’s a 47.37% chance of getting it right (since now the zeros take up 5.26% of the roulette wheel).

What’s perhaps amusing is that many people who took a liking to games that depend on maths, such as roulette, ended up looking into maths with genuine interest, often for the first time in their lives. With 62% of Brits playing video games, according to Statista, 27 per cent of which play casual games, there’s great potential to look at the maths behind the games these people already love as a way to make maths more interesting.

Breaking it down

Fractions can be a similarly bemusing area of maths, yet many games can offer some support on this front. Ten-pin bowling is a great way for people to understand how a single whole is made up of several parts. If you throw a ball into the pins and just four remain standing, you can easily explain that the fraction is 4/10 and can be reduced further to 2/5. Then you can reverse the question the other way and think about how many got knocked down.


“Bowling lanes” (CC BY 2.0) by Ben Sutherland

Like roulette, there are also variations of bowling which can take your learning in different directions. For example, once you’ve exhausted ten-pin bowling, try five-pin bowling. As Bowl Canada outlines, it was created in the country in 1909 with the pins being worth a different number of points. This could be an ideal game for boosting your mental maths

In a similar vein, darts can also offer a straightforward mental maths conundrum. You might think it is simply a case of adding up the points from your turn and subtracting them from your 501, but there is more to it than that. What if you land on a treble or a double number for instance? The game offers a great chance to brush up on your basics and also offers the particular benefit that you can play it in the pub. Snooker, and the fact that different balls have different values is also pretty good in this regard.

Plenty more examples

All of the above are interesting examples of how with a few little tweaks maths can be made a little more fun, but it is important to remember that these only scratch the surface. There are many other ideas you could apply, such as how games like Monopoly teach people about money and finance. The relationship between learning and playing has never been so close. There’s huge potential when it comes to introducing new concepts to people of all ages.