Let the (Math) Games Begin!

It’s no secret that I love teaching math.  It’s also no secret that I believe kids learn best when they’re having fun.  That is exactly why I love math games. 

Consider the following:
  • It’s the beginning of the year and you want to see what the kids can do...
  • Your math lesson is just not working...
  • Kids' brains are fried from testingtestingtesting...
  • It’s right before a major holiday break or long weekend and it feels like you’re herding butterflies...
  • It’s right after a major holiday break or long weekend and if feels like you need to check for signs of life...
  • You’re planning for a sub for the umpteenth time this year and you don’t want to have them introduce a new lesson...
  • It’s another inside day because of weather, and no one is happy about it! ...
  • Your math lesson ended early... (does that really happen?)
  • You want to make homework meaningful...
  • Your kids need some practice and you just can’t bring yourself to run off another worksheet...
  • You’re exhausted, but the show must go on! ...
  • The kids have been working hard learning new concepts and it’s time for a break...
  • It’s the end of the year and you’re back to herding butterflies...
(It feels like I should now be saying, “Who ya gonna call?" "____________!”)
If you nodded your head even once, I’ve got the solution for you– Math Games, a classroom teacher’s best friend! They’re wonderful tools to give kids the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned, while having fun practicing a skill.  And yes, I’ve had those times when (what I thought was) a GREAT! idea was met with a collective blank stare- lesson shelved, pull out the game. Subs like them because the kids are engaged and already know how to play.  I would often pull out a math game when we had the dreaded inside day, making it a win-win situation. They were occupied in a meaningful way while having fun, and, oh yeah, they were learning!
I made it a point, at the beginning of each new school year, to teach kids how to play different math games, so I could have them as a go-to resource whenever I needed them.  My favorite starter game was 36 BINGO- a Computation Game.  

36 BINGO (a freebie!) was great because it could easily last an entire math period, I could leave it for subs, and kids could play it for homework with parents, friends, siblings, or even alone. It worked well as a go-to activity in my classroom.  It required little set up (I would have game boards on hand, but students could also draw their own) and every game was different. 

After I retired, I started volunteering in my friend's primary classroom for math.  I wanted to give them critical thinking practice, so 100s Chart Puzzler was born. Each of the 16 color-coded puzzles has missing numbers and are unique because of the way they're cut, giving students a different look at the 100s Chart each time they play a different set.  The challenge comes from figuring out +/– 10 or + /– 1 as they fit the pieces back together.  There's great math conversation, if done in partners, and works well as a center activity. The kids soon discovered it wasn't as easy as it looked!
Building an arsenal of math games in my classroom was a no-brainer, as I believe we learn best if there's an element of play involved. That said, here's a great way to add to your own personal collection of math games.  Corkboard Connections is hosting Math Games Round-up, different math games suitable for 2nd-6th grade and definitely worth checking out, because we all know games are part of a great learning adventure!




"Play is the highest form of research." Albert Einstein