Engaging Games for Maths Learning - Room 15

Why Play Games?

Whenever I ask the students what they liked in Math they will generally talk about the games we play as a warm up at the beginning of the lesson or the summary at the end of the lesson. I often wonder if parents think that the student’s only play games in Math’s time. We do spend most of the time with explicit teaching of and exploring the strategy we are currently working on, but it’s interesting that because the games are fun the student’s don’t realise the key learning that is happening during the games. Is this a good use of lesson time? Research would suggest it is.

“Engaging mathematical games can also encourage students to explore number combinations, place value, patterns, and other important mathematical concepts. ... Playing games encourages strategic mathematical thinking as students find different strategies for solving problems and deepen their understanding of numbers.”  

 Why Play Math Games?  By Kitty Rutherford.  Posted April 27, 2015. https://www.nctm.org/publications/teaching-children-mathematics/blog 

Games To Reinforce Counting Sequences and to develop strategies at a young age.

A simple game student’s often play is to stand in a circle and count to 20. If you are 21 you are out and sit down. A student can say one, two or three numbers. Student’s will often chant numbers up to twenty and beyond and you can assume they are confident in sequencing them. The real test of this however, is to ask them to count from different places. Start at 13, start at 7 etc.  

For some students just knowing the next number is enough but others can start using the strategy of slowing down or speeding up the count to get specific students out. So if half are wearing hats and half not, then the aim is to get someone on the other team out.  It is fun to see the pleasure the students have in knowing they have used a strategy successfully.

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Another fun way to ensure students are understanding before, after and between is using number fans and with a partner quickly finding the number the teacher has asked for.  So if your class needs more work on before numbers, then what is the number before will be the focus. This also assists with understanding positional language, especially between, which is generally not understood by our five year olds. Students get points being first and the students who get 20 points first are the winners.


Games To Reinforce Basic Facts.

Students enjoy Maths Tag where they spread out in the room and the teacher can ask them simple basic fact questions. If they are correct they get to jump and tag another player out. This game allows the teacher to target specific learning to specific students.  If one student needs practice to understand that if 0 is added to a number then the original number doesn’t change, then that is the question asked. If another student needs to remember adding 1 is just the number after then that is the question asked.  Doubles taught this way are learnt very quickly. It is also a good way to practise counting on, rather than counting all. When students first begin adding they need to count all the numbers to understand how to join sets. The next step is understanding that the first number does not change and now the students can just count on i.e., 6 + 4 = ? is worked out by understanding, I have 6 and count 7, 8 ,9 and 10. Students need a good grasp of basic facts to easily use the more complex strategies they will encounter as they move up in the school.

Maths Curriculum-Room15-Engaging Games-Maths Tag-3 video here

Games To Reinforce Subitizing.

Defined as:

“It is the ability to instantly recognize the number of objects without actually counting them. ... Moreover, this mathematical skill allows students to gain a grasp of numbers and advance to higher levels of addition.”  

By Brad Hoffman, M.S.Ed.  Posted Feb 18, 2015. Board Certified Educational Planner and Learning Specialist  My Learning Springboard, Inc.   mylearningspringboard.com

I find tens frames helpful for this skill and hold them up asking a specific student how many?  If the student can answer within 2 seconds they get 2 points and if they need to count they get 1 point. First student to get to 20 points wins. Student’s can also hold up the tens frames if they are comfortable doing so.


Games To Reinforce Place Value.

Guess my Number can be played in so many ways. Once we go above 10 it can be useful to start playing Traffic Light.  A tens column and a ones column are drawn on the whiteboard and a student guesses what the number might be. If one of the numbers is correct and in the correct column it gets a green light. If a number is correct but in the wrong column it gets an orange light and if the number is not correct it gets the red light.  This promotes the understanding that a 3 can be 3 tens or 3 ones and as students progress then hundreds, thousands etc columns are added. The student who works out what the number is, is the winner.

Lucian said, I like 21 because I like thinking about how to get people out.

Kyesha commented, My favourite is Maths Tag because you get to jump to try to get people out.

Brodie says, I like Maths Tag because when I know the answer I can try to get two people out.

When your child talks about the games they have been playing in Maths, be reassured that they are fun but also purposeful. As well as learning useful mathematical concepts the student’s are also learning to give others ‘thinking time’ and not call out or tell them, to take turns and to use team strategies effectively.

How Does This Help Parents?

It’s reassuring to know that when they play games they are learning. Just think about games you might play when travelling in the car or waiting somewhere and you have no devices and adapt them to use numbers. I Spy can be used to spy numbers in sequence from number plates, or letter boxes etc. Guess My Number by asking questions, is it bigger than or smaller than? Don’t Say My Number is fun as children can count higher. If the number you can’t say is 4 then you can’t say 14, 24 etc.  

Curriculum Links:

Mathematics - Mathematical Processes

English - Oral Language - Listening and Speaking


Strategy, subitizing, sequencing, problem solving

Maths Curriculum Room25 Engaging Games Fans 3