The pros of the math games online are as follows:
1) The students are engaged- games are fun! Also, because so many have visuals (and sometimes animation) to show what is happening mathematically, the students can gain a better understanding, similar to what the article suggested in regards to aligning words and pictures to promote understanding. In this case, “words” are just numbers 🙂
2) Many of the sites allow the students to log in, and thus their progress can be tracked. This is great for them because then they can compete against themselves and always try to improve, rather than comparing their scores with their classmates.
3) Because there is such a variety, the website games are ideal for differentiation. Students can play games on their level and move on when they are ready.
The cons that need to be addresses are:
1) Because their is so much activity on the screen, the students may very well experience some cognitive overload because they are trying to process too many visual cues. Explaining the games beforehand may be one way to alleviate this, akin to the “pretraining” referred to in the article.
2) Some students also do not focus very well when left to complete a task independently, especially one that does not require writing, and they may just end up clicking around aimlessly. Giving out worksheets aligned with the games to keep them on track could be helpful as they will be forced to stop and focus, just as a video may be broken into segments to foster understanding.
3) Since students are in control, they may simply jump from game to game, never fully engaging in one concept. Thus, there must be some requirement that certain work is to be handed in for grading to promote completion.