Math games help students develop the ability to think critically and solve problems. Well chosen games can provide an enjoyable way for students to practice and master skills. There are many different types of math games. Listed below are a few ideas to get you started.
The aim of a Barrier Game is for one child to place objects onto a game
board while describing to a partner what he/she is doing. The partner
follows the verbal instructions to replicate what is being done, sight
unseen. At the end of the game the barrier is removed and the objects
should be in identical positions on both game boards. Barrier Games are a
great way to develop mathematical vocabulary as they promote listening
and speaking skills by requiring students to interact and use language
to complete a task by giving and receiving instructions.
Different types of boards for Barrier Games can be created according to students’ level of thinking. For example, kindergarten teachers may choose to begin with a simple board of 3 spaces to develop use of the words ‘center’, ‘above’, and ‘below’. Once students are confidently using these positional words a 3 x 3 board with accompanying sentence frames can be introduced to scaffold language. When playing Barrier Games students can either place objects on the board or draw objects (shapes, numerals, angles, money amounts etc.) described by a partner.
The possibilities for Barrier Games to develop math skills and vocabulary are endless. Some possible ways to use them are as follows:
To develop skills in naming shapes: One child places pattern blocks onto a game board while describing to a partner what he/she is doing. For example, 'Put a yellow hexagon in the center square.'
This can be extended for older students by having one child draw, rather than place, a shape in each space on the game board while describing to a partner what he/she is doing. For example, 'Draw an equilateral triangle in the center square.... draw a parallelogram in the square below the equilateral triangle', and so on. Measurements can be included in instructions to make this more challenging. For example,‘Draw a square with a perimeter of 12cm in the center square’.
To develop skills in naming coins/adding coin amounts: One child places coins onto a game board while describing to a partner what he/she is doing. This can be extended to develop skills in adding coin amounts by having students place more than one coin in each space on the game board. For example, 'Place two coins that equal twenty cents in the center square'.
To develop skills in reading and writing numerals: One child places numeral cards onto a game board while describing to a partner what he/she is doing. This can be extended to reading and writing four/five/six digit numbers. One child writes a number in each space on the game board while describing to a partner what he/she is doing. For example, 'Write the number 179 in the center square. Write 258 in the square to the left of 179', and so on.
To develop skills in reading analog and digital times: One child fills in a time on each clock on the game board while describing to a partner what he/she is doing. For example, 'Show half past two in the clock in the center....Show ten o'clock on the clock below half past two', and so on.
To develop skills in naming fractional parts: One child shades in a fraction of each shape while describing to a partner what he/she is doing. For example,'Shade in one third of the circle in the center of the grid'.
To develop skills in drawing and naming angle measures: One child uses a protractor to draw an angle in each space on the board while describing to a partner what he/she is doing. For example, 'Draw and label an acute angle that measures 47° in the center square.... draw and label a straight angle to the right of the acute angle', and so on.
I Have ... Who Has? games can be created for virtually any topic and
used as both a whole class practice or a center activity for small
How to Play: Distribute one card to each student. If any cards are left over distribute these to random students. As you distribute the cards, encourage students to begin thinking about what the question for their card might be so that they are prepared to answer. The first student begins with "I have ... Who has" while the others listen for the answer that is on their card. The person with the correct answer reads his/her card. Play continues until the game comes back to the starting card. The student with the starting card answers and then says "stop" to signal the end of the game.
As students develop confidence with the game a stop watch can be used to time a round. Record the time on the board so that students try each game to beat their current best time.
When using the cards as a math center activity one student deals out the cards to all players. Players arrange the cards face-up in front of them. Play continues as in the class game. Whoever has the card that answers the question reads that answer and then reads the question on their card. Students turn over the cards after reading them. The first person to turn over all of his/her cards wins the game. Cards can be shuffled and the game repeated.
24 GAME is a challenging game leading to improved computation, problem solving, number sense, and critical thinking skills. The object of the game is to make 24 using addition, subtraction, multiplication or division. Use all four numbers on a card, but use each number only once. Colored dots on the cards indicate varying degrees of difficulty 1 Dot cards are easy, 2 Dot cards are medium and 3 Dot cards are tough. There is at least one solution to every card. There are 9 different editions of this game available.
Equate is a great math board game that can be played with 2 to 4 players. Looking a bit like Scrabble for mathematicians, the object of the game is to put down tiles on the board and make points by correctly completing simple equations. Each player has nine tiles (including both numbers and mathematical symbols) and can add on to previous plays both vertically and horizontally. This game has many levels of play. Suggested age group is 8 years to adult.
To get the most benefit from math games:
For more math game ideas visit the Number, Geometry, and Measurement and Data pages for your grade level.