By Alexander Villafania
PLARIDEL, BULACAN — Mathematics is one of the most feared subjects in school. If there is one subject that many students in elementary would most easily fail first, it would be mathematics. Terror teachers notwithstanding, mathematics requires some level of concentration and discipline to understand, something that many students lack. In addition, students do not see the real-world purposes of mathematics unless it is applied in daily life.
But one Filipino set his sights on making mathematics both fun and educational. In the late 1970s, prompted by his difficulty in teaching students even the basics of math, teacher Jesus Huenda created Damath, a unique variant of the more familiar game of checkers but uses elements of math-solving techniques that challenges students to improve their math skills.
Huenda said he was inspired by a student’s investigatory project on using board games to solve mathematical problems. The late President Ferdinand Marcos took notice of Huenda’s highly addictive board game and was given a presidential merit award for his educational project.
Damath simplifies the method of solving problems while still sticking to the basic concept of checkers: Two players will have 12 numbered chips each and will play on a checker board that has the four basic mathematical operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. While checkers only requires the player to quickly “eat” the competitor’s chips, Damath requires the player to calculate the highest number to reach when making a move, by selecting what numbered chip would move to which mathematical symbol. In doing so, the player will find the best approach to have the highest number and will win when all chips of the competitor are eaten and the score is calculated.
But damath is not just limited to basic mathematical equations. Different game modes in Damath allow the players to compete on integers, rational numbers, radicals, coordinates and binaries. Other game modes are decimals, fractions, trigonometry, logarithmic function and the Fibonacci sequence.
“Unknowingly, the players are using the mathematical fundamentals when they play Damath. Those who used to dislike math are actually learning how to use it when he/she plays the boardgame and in the process learn the subject,” Huenda said.
Huenda also developed a new version of Damath called SciDamath. It works the opposite way: The player’s goal is to have the competitor finish off his or her chips. Rules on playing scidamath is available here.
The game is available in most bookstores and is sold along other board games such as chess. The Department of Education has even created a digital game version of damath and is downloadable from their website.
Damath also allows adults to play, and in so doing, are learning some of the concepts of mathematics even if they failed their math subjects in school. What’s more, this is a proudly Filipino-made game that could help people from all ages to get over their fear of math.
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