Gebeta for Beginning Math
Gebeta is referred to as one of the oldest board games in the world. This pastime favorite was once played in all corners of Ethiopia and enjoyed by all ages because of its simplicity, accessibility, and dynamic nature to change the momentum away from the lead simply by where a pebble lands. But Gebeta has other benefits for children. Gebeta teaches children how to count, wait for their turn, and apply hand-eye coordination, an important life skill for writing, painting, eating and most everything else in later life. During Gebeta play children learn number sequence, forecast future landing spots, and engage in procedural thinking, including managing their emotions in the outcome they lose the game. Gebeta is also culturally relevant to who the child is and enables her or him to find many pathways of understanding what Gebea is and means through his/her parents, and community members while promoting connection to the larger societal wealth that comes with using one’s own resources.
Building on Children’s Interest
Curiosity leads to engaged learning. When children find materials they can access and easily conceptualize, they draw from their existing knowledge to integrate more complex and higher-level thinking. Gebeta gives children early learning math skills which leads to questions about engineering like, how does the pebble fit in the groove, why does the sound change as each pebble is dropped, and why are there only 12 holes? The answer is found in Ethiopia’s history, innovation, and all from playing one of the oldest board games.
Indigenous early education starts with using indigenous materials. Children are curious when teachers show interest and engagement like those at the Shimbit KG program in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. When teachers are invested in what children are learning, how they are learning, and find ways to make it more meaningful for the child, education becomes attainable allowing children to translate experience into knowledge that benefits the child first and foremost. Teachers are including Gebeta for many reasons but primarily to teach through play. To provide children with early conceptual skills related to counting, sorting, organizing, and again through playing.
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