Enhancing Mathematical Reasoning in Primary School with the Strategic Board Game Othello


  • Erik Ottar Jensen Aalborg University
  • Emilie Madeline Hersaa Nehammer Virum Skole, Lyngby-Taarbæk
  • Anna Louise Eriksen Lindevangskolen, Frederiksberg




Mathematics education, Mathematical reasoning, exploratory talk, game based learning, strategic board games, primary school students


This study explores how the board game Othello can enhance primary school students' mathematical reasoning. Mathematical reasoning is increasingly emphasized in international mathematics curricula, yet both teachers and students face challenges in teaching and learning this important skill. Research shows that strategic games, like Othello, can develop thinking abilities related to mathematical reasoning by providing a context for students to engage in reflective thinking, anticipate future moves, and develop reasoning strategies. However, there is a need to understand how teachers can effectively utilize these games in the classroom to foster mathematical reasoning. We address this, through a design-based research approach consisting of a hermeneutic literature study and the development of design principles for a teaching intervention in a fifth-grade classroom. Data from the intervention is collected through participant observations and group interviews. The findings suggest that Othello can serve as a context for students to engage in mathematical reasoning by making and justifying claims and presenting logical arguments. The study proposes three design principles to scaffold mathematical reasoning during Othello gameplay. These principles focus on introducing and reinforcing the use of the "if...then" formulation, promoting exploratory talk, encouraging reflection on strategies, and fostering collaborative reasoning. The results indicate that the design principles positively impacted students' ability to reason mathematically. This paper contributes to the field of mathematics education and game-based learning by providing a practice-oriented perspective on designing mathematical instruction for reasoning using a specific board game in a primary school setting. The findings offer insights into the potential of strategic board games like Othello to enhance students' mathematical reasoning skills. The design principles proposed in this study can guide teachers in developing effective instructional approaches to support students' mathematical reasoning development.