Math Games

Buzz. An example of a low-stress, win-win game is Prime Number Buzz. Students stand in a circle or at their desks and go around the room in order, saying either the next sequential number if it is a composite or “buzz” if it is a prime. If they are incorrect, they sit down, but they keep listening and when they catch another student’s error, they stand up and rejoin the game. (The same game format works for Multiples Buzz, using multiples of, for example, 3, 4, and so on.)

Telephone. This is a variation of the perennially popular Whisper Down the Lane. Students line up in two teams and play with a math vocabulary word and defi nition. Th e last person in each line recites the words she heard, and the team closest to the correct original defi nition wins the point.

Commercials. Students work in small groups to create a commercial to advertise a math “product” by showing why it is valuable. For example, if they choose to sell the operation of division, their advertisement would promote the value of division. “Have you ever had 10 cookies to share with 5 friends? If you buy our product called ‘division,’ you’ll be able to fi gure out how many cookies to give each person so everyone gets a fair share.”

Pick a Card. Th is activity uses two identical decks of cards, each containing a number of cards equal to the number of students in the class. Deal out one deck of cards (one card to each student) and keep the other deck. Ask a math question and then pick a card from your deck. Th e student with the matching card answers the question; if this student doesn’t know the answer, he or she consults a “team member” (another student with a red or black card, or one who has a card of the same suit) who volunteers to help him or her answer. When doing this activity, more students actively think if you ask the question before selecting the card that designates who will give the answer. Selecting the card fi rst might stop others from thinking about the answer because they know they do not have the matching card.

Who’s Who in Math. Students give a short biography of a mathematician or teach a minilesson they prepare and share with the class.

Code Breaking. This activity provides practice in finding patterns. Examples such as “S M T W T F S” (first letter of the days of the week) are available in math activity books.

Brain Shake-up. Toss a ball (I use a rubber brain ball available through brain-toy Web sites) from student to student for math review. Th e student who catches the ball says something he or she remembers from the justconcluded discussion or comments about what message he or she got from a guest speaker. Another option is for the student who tosses the ball to ask the receiver an appropriate mental math question. To adapt this to a class with very diverse levels of math students, classmates can play on teams standing on opposite sides of the room. Th e receiver can have the option of asking a team member for help, but the receiver must ultimately give the answer. Alternatively, each receiver can request a Level 1, 2, or 3 question for a suitable, realistic challenge. You can help the questioner adapt the question so that it is appropriate for the chosen receiver.

Have I Got Something to Tell You! Students are given note cards with math-review information, such as a multiplication fact or, for older students, a procedure to explain, for example, “When subtracting a positive integer, the answer comes from moving to the left on a number line.” Students then walk around the room and share their math facts or explain their procedures to several classmates. If students are unclear about their particular math facts or procedures, give them another card or encourage them to ask for help. Th e listener repeats the fact or reasoning (in his or her own words) before the students switch roles and repeat the process. Th e cards can be saved and used another day, with students receiving diff erent cards each time. To keep track of which cards they have had, students can write their initials on the cards they use.

Simon Says. Th is game is easily adapted for math instruction. For example, you can tell students, “Make an acute angle with your arms” or “Make a semicircle with your fi ngers.”

And in Th is Corner . . . Students move to diff erent corners of the room in response to questions. For example, ask, “What kind of angle is this?” Students would then move to Corner 1 if the angle displayed is acute, Corner 2 for a right angle, Corner 3 for an obtuse angle, and Corner 4 for uncertain. Th e uncertain students can then walk over to classmates in the other corners and ask for their reasons until they decide which is the correct answer.

We’ve Got Something in Common. Students stand up and meet with two diff erent classmates and try to fi nd something they have in common, such as names with six or more letters, a birthday on a date that is a multiple of 5, or three or more colors in their shirts. Another movement option has students read and explain their “dend-writes” (summary of the previous day’s math lesson), listen to their partners, then add missing information to their own summaries before fi nding another partner and repeating the process.

I’m No Ordinary Zero. Th e Human Place Value unit from the Surescore/MARS Math series of math activities uses a Human Place Value Chart you make by dividing a piece of butcher paper the length of the classroom into 14 sections (or fewer for lower grades). Label each section, starting from the left side: ten billions, billions, hundred millions, and so on, down to tens, ones, tenths, and hundredths. Make sure you include a decimal point between the “ones” and “tenths” sections. After students review place value concepts, such as each section of the chart being equal to ten times the section to its right and one-tenth of the section to its left, have them name each section and discuss patterns they see in the names, such as what they notice about the place value names to the left and right of the decimal.

Students create numbers by standing on the chart to determine if a number is greater than, less than, or equal to another. Give each student an index card and have them all write a number between 0 and 9. Starting with numbers to the left of the decimal point, have four students arrange themselves on the chart in the largest whole number possible using their cards. Th ey return to their seats and another group of four students arrange themselves in the smallest number possible. Th e whole class should write down the numbers that are formed. Students then write on their whiteboards or hold up fi ngers in a horizontal V to represent a “greater than” or “less than” sign. You write the correct answer on the board using the appropriate symbols and the comparison of the numbers, such as 4,560 > 1,230.

When students are ready to progress, explain that they will make numbers starting from the tens place and lining up to the right, so they will make a number with a decimal point. Th e fi rst four students make the largest number they can using the two decimal places, and the next students assemble themselves to represent the smallest possible number following the same placement rule. Again, students write their answers and compare them to the correct answer you write on the board.

For an additional level of challenge, instruct each group to stand to the right of the decimal point, extending the line beyond the hundredths place. Help the class read the new decimal number. Make numbers with more and more places to the right of the decimal, name them, and continue to play the game with students lining up at the designated starting point and forming themselves into the largest and smallest arrangements while the class determines which number is “greater than” another, using the place value chart.

Larger numbers can be done by including more students standing on the number line and making numbers in the billions place as the remaining class members write the number numerically and in word form.

A challenge extension is to ask students if (and why) someone holding a zero in one place on the line has a diff erent value than someone holding a zero in another place on the line. What about zeros after the last number following the decimal?


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 Learning to Love Math
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Willis, Judy (2010), Learning to Love Math, ASCD, Alexandria, VA, Retrieved on 2016-09-02
Folksonomies: education games math


02 SEP 2016

 Math Games

Games that teach math, quantification, comparisons, etc.
Folksonomies: education math
Folksonomies: education math