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My Gift To You: 12 Days Of Math Games

This holiday season, I decided to give you something more useful than a partridge in a pear tree—or another #1 teacher mug. I find you can never have too many math games to keep kids engaged, so today I’m sharing 12 of my favorites.

I find you can never have too many math games to keep kids engaged, so today I’m sharing 12 of my favorites.

12 math games to use in class

These 12 games cover areas including number, mental math, space, and chance and data. Have fun sharing these with your students!

Day 1 – Beat the calculator

Students practice paper math and using a calculator as they race each other in pairs in this game.

You need: a calculator, paper and pencil, cards with basic or extended facts (see sample)

I find you can never have too many math games to keep kids engaged, so today I’m sharing 12 of my favorites.

  • Divide students into pairs and give each pair the game materials.
  • Place the cards face down on the playing surface.
  • Players take turns flipping over a card and race to work out the answer.
  • One player uses a calculator and the other works out the sum mentally.
  • The calculator player must wait until the answer is displayed on the calculator before saying it.
  • The first person to answer correctly is awarded one point. The first player to 20 points is the winner.
  • Have students trade roles so that each does the sum on paper or mentally and with the calculator.

Day 2 – Card turnover multiplication or addition game

You can use this 2-player game to practice addition or multiplication, whichever you are working on.

You need: a deck of cards with the picture cards (King, Queen, Jack, Joker) removed

Notes: Aces act as 1s in this game.

  • Shuffle the cards and divide them into two equal piles. Place the cards face down on the playing surface in front of each player.
  • Each player flips a card from the top of their pile.
  • Players multiply the two numbers, and the first player to call out the correct answer is the winner. That player gets to keep both cards. For example, if the cards turned up are a 7 and a 4, then the problem becomes: 7 x 4. The player that calls out the correct answer of 28 keeps the cards.
    [Addition Alternative: To practice addition, have students determine the sum of the two numbers instead.]
  • If both players say the answer at the same time, then they keep one card each.
  • If the answer is incorrect, then both cards are placed back at the bottom of the piles.
  • The winner is the player with the most cards at the end.

Day 3 – Place value dice

Students create and compare numbers to practice place value. The highest number wins.

You need: One die between two students and paper and pencils

  • Have students draw a place value table. How big the table is depends on the level of your students. For this example we’ll use 4 numbers which includes: ones, tens, hundreds and thousands.
  • One student rolls the die. That player must decide where they want to write the number, in either the ones, tens, hundreds or thousands slot. Each student can choose where to put that number.
  • The next student takes a turn rolling the die and placing the numbers in the place value table.
  • When all the columns have been filled, students compare numbers. The higher number wins.
  • Challenge them to see if they could create an even higher number by rearranging the numbers they used.

Day 4 – 4 Minutes – a number sentence game

Students practice writing number sentences using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in this dice game. You can play this game in pairs or small groups.

You need: Pencil and paper for each student, two dice per group, stopwatch or 4-minute timer

  • Roll the dice and add the numbers together. (e.g. 4 + 6 = 10)
  • Start a timer for 4 minutes.  
  • Students write as many number sentences for the number as they can within 4 minutes.
    For example:
    5 + 5
    20 – 10
    5 x 2
    30 / 3
  • When time is up, have students score their sums in this way:
    – Addition sums are worth 1 point.
    – Multiplication sums are worth 2 points.
    – Subtraction sums are worth 3 points.
    – Division sums are worth 4 points.
  • The student with the most points is the winner.

Day 5 – Dice calculations—aim for 9

Students practice creating number sentences combining operations that equal a single digit number. The higher the number, the higher the score. Thus aim for 9. Students can play in pairs or small groups.

You need: 4 dice for each group, paper and pencil for each student

  • One player rolls the 4 dice. These are the 4 numbers students have to work with.
  • Each player writes down a number sentence where the answer is a single digit. Students can only use each number once.
    Example: the numbers rolled are: 2, 6, 3, 5.
    Some possible number sentences:
    – 6 + 3 + 2 – 5 = 6
    – 5 x 3 – 6 – 2 = 7
    – 35 – 26 = 9
    [Note that students can use the numbers rolled to create double digit numbers.]
  • After 5 rounds, the student with the most points is the winner.

Day 6 – Counting on card game

Use this two-player game to practice the mental math strategy of counting on.

You need: a deck of cards with the picture cards (King, Queen, Jack, Joker) removed

Notes: Aces act as 1s in this game.

  • Separate the cards in two piles, one with the cards: ace – 4 and the other pile with the cards 5 – 10. Shuffle each pile so they’re in a random order and place face down on the playing surface.
  • Players take turns turning over the top two cards. They add the two numbers using the counting on strategy: count on from the larger number, and count on the smaller number. For example, if the two cards turned over were 8 and 4. They would start with 8, count on 4: 9, 10, 11, 12.
  • If players have the correct answer, they get to keep both cards.
  • If the answer is incorrect the other player tries answering the question to keep both the cards.
  • Continue play until one of the piles run out of cards.
  • The winner is the player with the most cards at the end of the game.

Day 7 – What’s my number

Students practice using a calculator and understanding higher and lower numbers to guess their partner’s secret number in this two-person game.

You need: a calculator for each pair

  • One player thinks of a secret number between 1 and 100.
  • Their partner “guesses” by keying in a number on the calculator.
  • The first player may only answer higher or lower.
  • The person with the calculator adds or subtracts a number to find the secret number.
  • See how many guesses it takes to work out the number.

Note: You can use a number line or hundred chart to help students keep track of their guesses. For example, if their first guess is 55, and the response is lower, they can cross out 55–100. If they enter –25 to get 30 and the response is higher, they can cross out 1–30. They can see how they are zeroing in on the number.

Day 8 – Are you in the right range

This game for 2 players provides practice in estimating

You need: a calculator, 2 10-sided dice, and a copy of a playing board, which includes numbers to suit the level of your students (see sample below)

I find you can never have too many math games to keep kids engaged, so today I’m sharing 12 of my favorites.

Note: Because this is an estimation game, students do not need paper and pencil to work out the sum.

  • The first player rolls one die and finds the corresponding numbers on the playing board. They then roll the second die and find the number in the second box on the playing board. For example, if the player rolled 6 and 4, then they find that 6 with 228 + 574.
  • The player must estimate the sum of the two numbers and select the range that the estimate falls in.
  • The other player uses the calculator to work out the exact answer. If this answer falls within the range selected then the first player scores a point.
  • Play continues with players swapping turns. The first player to get 5 points is the winner.

Remember the player that is estimating needs to do so mentally, so no paper and pencil to work out the estimates.

Day 9 – Find the polygons

Students practice finding and naming polygons in this head-to-head game.

You Need: A complex polygon shape like the one shown, colored pencils, markers or crayons

I find you can never have too many math games to keep kids engaged, so today I’m sharing 12 of my favorites.

  • Give each pair a polygon page
  • Have one student outline a polygon and name it.
  • Then the next person outlines another shape and names it.
  • The game continues until one person can’t find any more polygons.

Note: Shapes may overlap or contain smaller shapes. You can alternately ask students to identify certain shapes, such as triangles or hexagons.

Day 10 – Hidden tangrams

Students practice polygon and direction language as they try to get their partner to create a specific shape with tangrams.

You Need: A set of tangrams for each student (you can download a PDF template from About Education), a barrier to place between partners

Note: Remind students that all seven pieces of the tangram must be used, and that they must lay flat and touch and none of the pieces are to overlap.

  • Have 2 students create a barrier between them.
  • One student creates a design with the tangrams.
  • Then that student explains to the other students how to arrange the pieces so that it matches his/her design.
  • The partner moves the tangram pieces according to the instructions.
  • At the end have the students compare the pictures.
  • Ask them: why is the second design different from the first? What instructions and words could you have used to make sure both pictures are the same?

For an alternate game, share one design with both students and have race to find the solution using all the tangram pieces.

Day 11 – 2D shape dominoes

Students play the classic game of dominos using special dominos with 2D shapes or shape words.

You need: 2D shape dominoes (download yours free here)

Note: Copy the dominoes onto thick card so that you cannot see through to the other side when turned upside down.

  • Place the dominoes face down on the table and mix them up.
  • Each player selects 7 dominoes.
  • Each player keeps the dominoes in front of them but hidden from the other players.
  • The youngest player begins.
  • That player selects one of their dominoes and places it face up in the middle.
  • The player to the left must then place a matching domino next to the first domino. For example, if the first player started the game with the domino that has the word nonagon and picture of a rectangle, then the next player must play a domino that has a picture (or word) of a nonagon or a rectangle. They join it up to the matching side.
  • If the player doesn’t have a matching domino, they pick one up from the others still facing down and their turn is over.
  • Play continues until one player uses all their dominos.
  • The winner is the first player to have no domino cards left.

Day 12 – Venn diagrams barrier game

This is good practice for pairs of students after you have introduced Venn diagrams.

You need: A Venn diagram template with as many circles to suit the level of your students, pencil or 2 sets of small letters A–M

  • Label each circle with any categories that your students have been working with.
  • One student places the letters of the alphabet from A-M in various positions in the diagram.
  • Then that student describes the placement of each letter to the other student.
  • The other student follows directions to place each letter in a blank Venn diagram.
  • At the end the students compare copies to see how accurate the directions were.

I hope you enjoy these 12 math games (and your holiday break!). Want more math games and activities? You’ll love The Bumper Book of Fun Math Games and Activities, with 138 pages of worksheets, games, and activities suitable for students in grades 1 – 4!

What’s your favorite math game? Care to share it in the comments below to keep passing the gift along?

I find you can never have too many math games to keep kids engaged, so today I’m sharing 12 of my favorites.

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