Learning through games is a great way to get kids engaged. In this post, we offer up 5 fun math games to help students develop a more positive approach to math.
I hate math. I’m terrible at math. These are phrases we never want to hear our kids say. In education right now there’s a lot of focus on the Growth Mindset. The basic premise is we should help students understand how to develop a positive outlook on the ways they learn. So instead of saying “math is so hard,” we can focus on “math is a big challenge for me but I’m going to try to tackle it!”; or “multiplication is a challenge but I’m great at geometry”. A great way to foster a positive growth mindset for your kids is gamification: another teacher term for learning through games.
Here are 5 math teacher and math tutor approved games you can easily play at home. Suggestions are provided so you can adapt the games depending on what level of math your little ones are working with!
So with those criteria, here are our Top 5 Math Games for children at home.
1) Pizza Restaurant!
Engage those little minds and fingers with this great math activity. It begins as a craft, and allows you to work on literacy, numeracy and creative play.
This works with many math concepts and different foods, but for this version focuses on shapes, number sense, adding, and even a little literacy (spelling and printing).
A. Pre cut some basic circles and shapes.
B. Have your child place different shapes and combos on their pretend “pizza”.
C. Here comes the math! Have your child write out the number of shapes they used. For younger children they can just practice counting and identifying shapes.
*A great tip if you have a younger child learning writing, is to write the word/number in yellow and have them trace over your writing (no need to buy workbooks with tracing sheets!).
D. For older kids, they can write the numbers, practice spelling and printing, and then we made it a bit more challenging by pretending making each shape a different topping and adding not just shapes but also calculating the total cost of the pizza.
E. After the kiddos are done they have their own food and menu for some great pretend restaurant play.
2) Puddle Jump!
We’re all spending a lot more time in our houses and in front of screens right now so here’s an activity that also allows your kids to get some exercise. This activity easily works indoors or outdoors. Here’s a version of the game using addition and subtraction practice.
A. Cut out various “puddle” shapes with blue paper and write out different numbers on them, then spread them out in a big open space.
B. The goal is to jump from one puddle to the other to get across (think: the floor is lava!).
C. Younger kids can simply identify the numbers or practice counting. For older kids, as they jump from one puddle to another in one direction, have them keep adding to their totals. As they work their way back in another direction, they can subtract each number.
D. This also works great with learning multiplication tables and division. The great thing is you can easily change the task depending on what your child is practicing (adding/subtracting/multiplying/dividing or even simple counting).
This is a super simple game you can really personalize for whatever math concept you’re working on, or whatever practice your child might be struggling with. It also works great with our online math tutoring students as well- it’s an easy one to add to an online white board on something like a moveable post-it to make the learning interactive. We’re also including an editable Google Slides template of the game from one of our tutors! Put the game in Present Mode to play. Click here for the template.
A. Take a set of popsicle sticks, or even slips of cardboard/paper. You want at least 15. Depending on how many players you have you may want to add a few more sticks.
B. On about 10-12 of the sticks, write the different numbers/operations you want to practice (addition/subtraction/equation etc). Don’t write the answer.
C. On the remaining sticks write the word ZAP.
D. Put all the sticks in a cup.
E. The goal of the game is to end up with the most sticks.
F. Each player takes a stick. As you take the stick, in order to keep it, you need to say the number/solve the math problem. If you do, it goes in your keep pile.
G. If you get a ZAP! stick, you lose your keep pile (so your stick count is now zero).
H. Keep going until all the sticks have been pulled and the person with the most sticks at the end wins.
I. When it’s your turn, hold the stick so your child can see it, and solve it out loud. Kids need to hear the different ways you can come to an answer and it shows them that we all have to “figure it out” rather than memorize it. As you work it out, they work it out too so they actually do more work than they realize!
J. This is a great way to practice and review concepts rather than starting with something brand new. If you review key concepts that your child may have struggled with before, chances are the more you play, they will start to get them easier. And pointing those learning moments out and celebrating them is a great way to build a positive growth mindset.
4) Roll and Solve
It’s amazing how just including some dice makes a pretty regular activity seem fun. The act of throwing the dice makes a kid feel more involved and gives them something tactile to associate with the task (which means they’re more likely to remember it). We love using online dice with online math tutoring too because you can click a button and feel like you’re participating/in charge of the game.
A. Take one or two dice.
B. Write out some empty boxes on paper. The operation you do can be adjusted depending on what your child is learning (adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing etc).
C. Have your child roll the dice. That’s the number that goes in the first box. They roll again and that’s the second number. They solve that operation.
D. On the next line they take the answer from the first solve as the first box, then they roll again for the next number. They repeat these steps until the end.
E. You can turn it into a competition by having more than one person play, and saying the first person to get to 25 wins, or the person with the highest number at the end wins.
F. You can make it more challenging by adding another dice and the two sides form a bigger number to add eg) a 6 and a 4= 64.
5) “I Have… Who Has”
This is a play on the game Guess Who (if you have that game you may want to use the stands that come with it).
A.This game works better if you have more than two people to play it but you can play it with two.
B. Make about 15-20 “cards” (you can use pieces of paper) with a math problem and a math solution on it (the solution should be for another card’s problem). You just have to make sure they all connect somehow! See this example:
C. One person starts. They read the number/operation at the top of their card. eg) I have 8. Who has 4 x 4. Then the person with the correct answer to that question reads theirs next.
D. The goal is to try not to break the chain!
E. There are multiple printable versions of this game online, I just make my own based on whatever my son’s homework was. But if you want to try a more official version try this free printable from Super Teacher Worksheets.
Bonus Game: Baking Challenge
Not really a game, but cooking and baking are fantastic ways to “sneak in” some numeracy! For younger children, practice reading and recognizing numbers. For older children, make up your own scenarios. For example ask, “the recipe says 1 cup but let’s say we want to double the recipe, or triple the recipe, how much do we need?” Or, “if the recipe says we will get 12 muffins, but we double it, how many will we have? And if I give you and your brother each half, how many will you get?” Baking is also an awesome way to help kids visualize and make sense of fractions. It’s a great way to help kids see how all this numeracy and number sense is a very useful part of “real life”.
Games and activities like those above are small, enjoyable ways of showing kids that learning math can be really engaging, and solving problems is something they can do. We hope these games and ideas have given you a bit of inspiration, too.
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