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Promoting Strategic Thinking with SET

Promoting Strategic Thinking Skills in Middle-School Students Using Set: The Family Game of Visual Perception®


Sylvia Sykes
Holy Names University, Oakland, CA


Games are a natural expression of children’s playfulness and energy. Excitement, joy, and involvement motivate them to continue to play until they have mastered the game. Strategy games, in particular, address development of mental acuity and intellectual maturity essential to academic success. Consequently, educators, particularly in the primary and elementary grades, may incorporate subject-specific games into classroom practices to support cognitive and academic development. For example, math bingo, math specific board and card games, and interactive  educational software may reinforce knowledge of mathematical operations (Falco, 2001). Crossword puzzles and word searches increase and strengthen vocabulary in both language arts and science. Riddles introduce metaphors, similes, analogies, and descriptive language as well as assessing reading comprehension (Zipke, 2007). However, as children enter the middle and upper grades, game usage declines as classroom teachers shift from teaching learning strategies to instructing in content (Joseph, 2006). This study asks the question: What are the effects, if any, of a curriculum using Set: A Family Game of Visual Perception® (Copyright ©1988, 1991 Cannei, LLC) on strategic thinking skills of middle school students?

Metacognitive Awareness and Strategic Thinking

Many of educators hold the misperception that direct instruction in teaching strategic thinking stops at the end of elementary school (Joseph, 2006). As a result, less proficient students may fall behind because they are struggling to grasp unfamiliar material without indepth comprehension (Day, 1994; Vaidya, 1999). Teachers may rely upon a more traditional teaching model that follows the pattern of giving an assignment with the expectation that the student will produce the work. The teacher then evaluates the product and assigns a grade. A student may rely upon rote memorization and fact regurgitation rather than developing a deeper and more substantive understanding of the subject (Day, 1994). In short, the student becomes a passive participant in her education because she does not understand how or why she learns (Joseph, 2006).

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