Math games offer a learning alternative to worksheets or other traditional assignments, and they engage kids who might lose interest in paper-and-pencil activities. Math skills games work well in classroom learning centers as independent or small-group practice. Using a variety of game formats keeps the practice interesting and allows teachers to work on specific skills.
Many common family board games include math elements such as counting spaces or adding numbers on dice. Candyland and Chutes and Ladders are two simple board games for young kids to practice counting. Monopoly requires adding numbers on two dice as well as counting, adding and subtracting money. Yahtzee is a game of strategy using number combinations on dice to earn the highest number of points. You can add more math concepts into basic board games if you want to focus on additional skills. For example, to work on basic addition with Candyland, add stickers with simple addition problems on some of the squares. If a player lands on one of the squares, she has to solve the addition problem.
A deck of cards offers multiple game options that focus on math skills. The number of cards dealt to each player requires addition, subtraction and multiplication activities. A variation of Go Fish has kids find pairs that equal a specific number. For example, if the target number is 10, players can make pairs with a two and an eight, a four and a six, etc. A math-focused version of War involves two players both putting down a card at the same time. The first person to add, subtract or multiply the two numbers correctly wins both cards.
Math worksheets keep kids in their seats, so physical games that incorporate math offer a change. A beach ball is a simple tool to get the kids moving while practicing math facts. Write numbers randomly all over a large beach ball, leaving some space around the numbers so they aren't too scrunched. When a player catches the ball, she looks at the two numbers that are under her thumbs. She adds, subtracts or multiplies the numbers, depending on the function you want to practice. For example, if her right thumb is covering a three and her left thumb is covering a five, she would find the sum of the two numbers if you're working on addition. Relay races are another easy activity to turn into math practice. Designate a spot on the whiteboard for each team. The players take turns running to the board, solving a math problem and running back to the team so the next person can go.
If the classroom has a computer for student use, you can create an electronic math game center. Cleanup is easy because there are no separate pieces, and kids get practice using the mouse and finding numbers on the keyboard. Computer games that are installed from a disk work well if the computer doesn't have Internet access. If the computer is connected to the Internet, online games are easy to play without any downloads. Bookmarking the allowed math-game websites and blocking other content keeps online math games safe for kids.
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