Poker: a teaching tool or playing with fire?
Gambling among teenagers is a nationally recognized problem. A study* released in October, 2010 found that 15% of boys ages 14 to 17 gamble on card games at least once a month.
Advocates say that poker is instructive in learning concepts of probability and statistics. Some argue that it’s a game of skill that can be used as a powerful teaching tool. “It’s about understanding the anatomy of reasoning and human behavior–about teaching them to contend in a contentious environment,” states Harvard Law Professor Charles Nesson.
Opponents respond that poker clubs at school encourage potentially unhealthy habits. Poker can lead to abuse and addiction says Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling. “The excitement that a win produces, whether or not it’s for money, can have profound effects on decision-making in a young brain.”
Colleges and universities have poker clubs but very few high schools. George Mason High School in Falls Church, Virginia is an exception. Math teacher William Snyder has two tables in his classroom–one for new players and the second for experienced players. Applying card-table concepts to math and logical reasoning is the goal. Real money is not used and part of each class is spent on fractions and basic arithmetic.
How do you feel about this approach to math? Is there value in using card games at school to develop reasoning skills? What are the odds a student gets hooked and moves on to online gambling? Find out more about gambling laws here.
* Annenberg Public Policy Foundation at University of Pennsylvania