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Math Games for First Graders

I think that every topic in mathematics is fun if you master it and understand it. Since fun has always been a part of my teaching philosophy, I have found that math games are an enormously engaging and effective way to help children on their way to understanding and mastery in math. The greatest benefits of math games are the way they improve students’ basic arithmetic and problem-solving skills.

By the end of first grade, students should know or be able to do the following:
• understand and use the concept of ones and tens in the place value number system
• add and subtract small numbers with ease
• measure with simple units
• locate objects in space.
• describe data
• analyze and solve simple problems.

I have taught first grade for many years. If I could pick one math skill that I think is the most important skill for first graders to master, it would be the ability to know (without counting on fingers) all the addition facts to 10. Counting on fingers is a good beginning strategy, but children need to have all the facts in long-term memory and be able to recall them automatically.

What are all the facts that add to 10? (10+0, 9+1, 8+2, 7+3, 6+4, 5+5, 4+6, 3+7, 2+8, 1+9, 0+10)
What are all the facts that add to 9? 8? 7? 6? 5? 4? 3? 2?

The following game is one of many that help children master these basic addition skills, while having fun:

Add-em Up
What you need:
2 players
Add-em Up game board for each player – each player writes the numbers 2-12 horizontally at the bottom of their papers.
2 dice
Counters – paper clips, pennies, etc.

Players place a counter above each number.

Player #1 rolls the dice and adds the 2 numbers. He/she may then remove the counter over the sum from the game board or the counters over any 2 numbers that add up to that same sum.

Example: Player #1 rolls a 3 and a 4. He/she may remove the counter above the 7 or the counters above any combination for 7, such as 1 & 6, or 2 & 5, or 3 & 4.

Players take turns rolling the dice and removing counters. When a player cannot remove counters that match the sum rolled or a combination, he/she loses that turn.

Play continues until neither player can remove counters. The player with the most counters removed wins.

Fun and (Math) Games!

Saturday School A Success At Lincoln Elementary reads the headline from Madison, Wisconsin. Even on a Saturday, and even on a day that felt like summer, dozens of students at one elementary school spent the morning in class.

Every Saturday since the end of January, about 100 students have gathered for about two hours a week to get a little extra work done and to do so while having a little bit of fun. It is easy to assume that kids would want to be anywhere but school on a weekend morning, but this program is proving to be different. Instead of traditional instruction, students learn through playing games.

It seems somehow sad to me that kids are allowed to have fun with math only on Saturdays. Why isn’t math engaging, challenging, and fun all the time? As a veteran elementary teacher, I do understand that teachers feel like they don’t have enough time to teach all of the content within the course of a school year. Why on earth would they ever want to add more material in the form of math games when they can’t seem to finish the assigned math textbook? Turns out that making time to incorporate math games in the classroom can lead to rich results. I’ve been using games to teach mathematics for many years, and here are some of the significant benefits of doing so:

Benefits of Using Math Games in the Classroom

• Meets Mathematics Standards
• Easily Linked to Any Mathematics Textbook
• Offers Multiple Assessment Opportunities
• Meets the Needs of Diverse Learners (UA)
• Supports Concept Development in Math
• Encourages Mathematical Reasoning
• Engaging (maintains interest)
• Repeatable (reuse often & sustain involvement
• Open-Ended (allows for multiple approaches & solutions)
• Easy to Prepare
• Easy to Vary for Extended Use & Differentiated Instruction
• Improves Basic Skills
• Enhances Number and Operation Sense
• Encourages Strategic Thinking
• Promotes Mathematical Communication
• Promotes Positive Attitudes Toward Math
• Encourages Parent Involvement

Pick a skill that your students need to practice. One of the big ones is subtraction at any level. Kindergarteners through 6th graders find subtraction to be a challenge. Here’s a great double-digit subtraction game:

500 Shakedown

What you need:
2 players
2 dice
paper and pencil for each

Each player starts with 500 points.

Player #1 rolls the dice and makes the biggest two-digit number he/she can. Now he/she subtracts this number from 500.

Example: Player #1 rolls a 2 and a 4 and makes 42. Now he/she subtracts 42 from 500.

Player #2 rolls the dice and does the same. Players continue to alternate turns. The first person to reach 0 wins.

There’s only one complication! When you throw a 1, the rules change. You don’t subtract. Instead you make the smallest two-digit number you can and add.

Example: If the player throws a 1 and a 5, the smallest two-digit number is 15. So he/she adds 15 to the total.

Variation: Start with 5,000 points and use three dice or start with 50,000 and use 4 dice.

Math Games – a Great Summer Skill Sharpener!

Many οf thе math computational skills whісh generally аrе nοt practiced over thе summer, аrе simply forgotten. Parents can help their children retain and sharpen their mathematics skills this summer by doing and supporting math at home.

Math games offer targeted practice in math fundamentals. Games can, if you select the right ones, help children learn almost everything they need to practice and master in elementary math. Good, child-centered games are designed to take the boredom and frustration out of the repetitive practice necessary for children to master important math skills and concepts.

The following dice game gives first graders, second graders, and third graders practice with addition and subtraction.

Get Close to 105

What you need:
2 or more players
3 dice
pencils and paper for everyone

The object of this game is to get a final score closer to 105 than any other player.

Player #1 rolls the dice, adds them together, and puts the sum as his/her score for that round.

Player #2 rolls the dice, and does the same as player #1.

At the end of 10 rounds (and everyone has to take 10 rounds), the player with the score closest to 105 wins the game.

Variation: Players can make the goal number anything they want, such as 147, etc. Is there a target score that will be too high for three dice and 10 rounds? A question for the kids, not the parents.

Never forget that games are supposed to be fun! If pleasure is not connected to the game, children will be unwilling to play and little learning will take place.

A Math Game for First, Second, and Third Graders

When working with first graders, second graders, and sometimes even third graders, I have found that when asked, “How much is your number + 10 (e.g., 23 + 10)”, they struggle to know the answer and end up counting on their fingers. Counting on fingers is a good beginning strategy, but as children gain in number sense, fingers should no longer be necessary. The same is true if I ask, “How much is your number -10?”

A major learning goal for students in the primary grades is to develop an understanding of properties of, and relationships among, numbers. Building on students’ intuitive understandings of patterns and number relationships, teachers can further the development of this one aspect of number concepts and logical reasoning by using a math game Tens and Ones.

Tens and Ones

What you need:
2 players
0-99 chart for each player (find one and download it from the internet or have your child make one using a 10×10 grid.
1 counter (button, paper clip, rock, etc.) for each player
1 regular die with instructions for rolling (following)

Roll 1 or 2 – +10
Roll 3 or 4 – +1
Roll a 5 – -1
Roll a 6 – -10

Each player places a counter on the zero on his/her own 1-99 chart. Players take turns rolling the die.

Player #1 rolls the die and moves his/her counter according to the roll on his/her 0-99 chart. Player #1 checks to make sure that player #2 agrees and then hands the die to player #2.

Player #2 follows the same steps as player #1 using his/her own 0-99 chart.

It may be visually helpful to have the child roll the die, leave the counter where it is and then count on using his finger. When he/she reaches +10, the player will then be able to see that he/she is exactly one row down from where he/she started. Then the counter can be moved to the new spot.

The winner is the first player to move his/her counter to 99. To win a player must land on 99 exactly. For example, if a player lands on 90 and rolls a +10 on the next turn, the player must pass, as there are only nine boxes from 90 to 99. Players may not move their counters past 99 and off the chart.

Basic Math Skills and Meaningful Jobs

Being able to read, write, and do basic math is a requirement for almost any meaningful job these days. The reason we have to spend so many resources on remedial work, whether that be at universities, community colleges or other adult education programs, is some adults did not learn their basic math facts when their young minds were most capable of learning.

That is true today, and it will be true in the future. In order for your child to have success with more advanced math, and be prepared for a future with a meaningful job, it is essential that they memorize their basic math facts to the level of automaticity.

Your child is introduced to basic math concepts such as counting and simple adding in kindergarten.

First graders and second graders should have addition and subtraction combinations to 20 at their fingertips.

Third graders and fourth graders need to master the multiplication tables to 12×12 and the related division facts.

The exact order and manner in which math facts and concepts are introduced varies with the curriculum your child’s school uses and math standards, which can vary from state to state, but the above is a general guide.

Essentially, your child should demonstrate mastery of these types of facts by the end of fourth grade in order to be prepared for the challenges of more advanced math. It may come quickly for your child, or it may take time, but through focused practice, they will be able to increase their proficiency.

This can be achieved through skill and drill repetition (dittos, workbook pages, timed tests, and/or flashcards) which is usually extremely boring and tedious. There is another more effective, creative, and fun method. Math games! Games are engaging (maintain interest); dittos, workbook pages, or flash cards rarely are.

Parents can offer greater opportunities for their child to succeed in math if they support the learning of the basics at home. Games fit the bill wonderfully!

Math games for kids and families are the perfect way to reinforce and extend the skills children learn at school. They are one of the most effective ways that parents can develop their child’s math skills without lecturing or applying pressure. When studying math, there’s an element of repetition that’s an important part of learning new concepts and developing automatic recall of math facts. Number facts (remember those times tables?) can be boring and tedious to learn and practice. A game can generate an enormous amount of practice – practice that does not have kids complaining about how much work they are having to do. What better way can there be than an interesting game as a way of mastering them?

Games are fun and create a context for developing children’s mathematical reasoning. Through playing and analyzing games, children also gain computational fluency by describing more efficient strategies and discussing relationships among numbers.

Games teach or reinforce many of the skills that a formal curriculum teaches, plus a skill that math homework sometimes, mistakenly, leaves out – the skill of having fun with math, of thinking hard and enjoying it.

Memorizing the Basic Facts with Math Games

Frank L. Palaia, PhD, is a science teacher in the Lee County School District and at Edison State College. As a guest columnist for the News-Press.com of Ft. Myers, Florida, he had this to say about students in his classes, “Most students today have not memorized basic math facts in elementary and middle school. Each year there will be otherwise intelligent junior or senior students in my high-school classes who asks a question like, “What is eight times seven?”

As an elementary math specialist, I see that children no longer memorize their addition facts or multiplication tables. With the math curriculum as extensive as it is, teachers cannot afford to take the time to ensure that students learn the basic facts (sad, but true).

Parents are partners in the process, and can offer greater opportunities for their child to succeed in math if they support the learning of the basics at home. Math games fit the bill wonderfully!

Math games for kids and families are the perfect way to reinforce and extend the skills children learn at school. They are one of the most effective ways that parents can develop their child’s math skills without lecturing or applying pressure. When studying math, there’s an element of repetition that’s an important part of learning new concepts and developing automatic recall of math facts. Number facts (I’m sure you remember memorizing those times tables?) can be boring and tedious to learn and practice. A game can generate an enormous amount of practice – practice that does not have kids complaining about how much work they are having to do. What better way can there be than an interesting game as a way of mastering them?

Games are fun and create a context for developing children’s mathematical reasoning. Through playing and analyzing games, children also gain computational fluency by describing more efficient strategies and discussing relationships among numbers.

First graders and second graders need to have the addition facts to 10 in long-term memory. When they hear 6+4, they immediately know (without counting fingers) that the answer is 10. Using fingers to count is a good, early strategy but with practice, those facts should be automatic.

Third graders and fourth graders need to have all of the multiplication facts to automaticity.

Methods such as flash cards, dittos, and workbook pages stress rote memorization of basic number facts and are usually boring and do not require learners to participate actively in thought and reflection. They do not go easily or quickly into long-term memory.

Games teach or reinforce many of the skills that a formal curriculum teaches, plus a skill that math homework sometimes, mistakenly, leaves out – the skill of having fun with math, of thinking hard and enjoying it.

Math Games and At-Risk Kids

As an elementary mathematics specialist, I work in K-6 classrooms all the time. Time after time teachers ask the same question, “How do I help floundering students who lack basic math skills?” In every class there are a handful of students who are at risk of failure in math.

What can be done for such students? How can we help children be proficient at the basic skills.

Struggling math students typically need a great deal of practice. Math games can be an effective way to stimulate student practice.

First graders and second graders need to have the addition facts to 10 in long-term memory. When they hear 6+4, they immediately know (without counting fingers) that the answer is 10. Using fingers to count is a good, early strategy but with practice, those facts should be automatic.

Family Fact Feud is a great game for achieving that goal.

What you need:
2 players
deck of cards, face cards removed

Players sit side by side (not across from each other)

Teacher/parent decides the particular fact to practice (i.e. +1, +2, +3, etc.) Once the constant addend is determined, that card is placed between the two players. Players then divide the cards evenly between themselves. Each player turns over one card and adds that card to the constant addend in the middle. The player with the highest sum collects both cards. Players must verbalize the math sentence.

Example:
Teacher/parent decides the constant addend will be +1.

Player #1 turns over a 5, and says, “5 + 1 = 6”.
Player #2 turns over an 8 and says, “8 + 1 = 9”.

Player #2 collects both cards.

In the event of a tie (both players have the same sum), each player turns over one more card and adds this card to the 1. The player with the greatest sum takes all four cards.

When the deck is finished up, players count their cards. The player with the most cards is the winner.

Third graders and fourth graders need to have all of the multiplication facts to automaticity.

Multiplication Fact Feud is great for that.

What you need:
2 players
deck of cards, face cards removed

Teacher/parent decides the particular multiplication fact to practice (i.e. x7, x4, x8, etc.) Once the constant factor is determined, that card is placed between the two players. Players then divide the remaining cards evenly between themselves.

Each player turns over one card and multiplies that card by the constant in the middle. Players must verbalize their math sentence. The player with the highest product collects both cards.

Example:
Teacher/parent selects x5 as the constant.

Player #1 draws a 4 and says, “4 x 5 = 20”.
Player #2 draws a 7 and says “7 x 5 = 35”

Player #2 would collect both cards.

In the event of a tie (i.e. both players have the same product), each player turns over one more card and multiplies that by the constant factor. The player with the highest product wins all four cards.

When the cards are all used up, the player with the most cards wins the game.

The Perfect Math Game!

Are you looking for creative and engaging ways to help your students/children learn basic math concepts and skills?

Teachers and parents often ask for suggestions about activities to do with their children at school and at home to help further their mathematical understanding. I’ve been teaching math to children for many years, and I’ve found that math games are, from a teacher’s and a parent’s point of view, wonderfully useful. Math games put children in exactly the right frame of mind for learning. Children are normally very eager to play games. They relax when they play, and they concentrate. They don’t mind repeating certain facts or procedures over and over.

Children throw themselves into playing games the way they never throw themselves into filling out workbook pages or dittos. And games can help children learn almost everything they need to master in elementary math. Good, child-centered games are designed to take the boredom and frustration out of the repetitive practice necessary for children to master important math skills and concepts.

Playing math games is even more beneficial than spending the same amount of time drilling basic facts using flash cards. Not only are games a lot more fun, but the potential for learning and reasoning about mathematics is much greater, as well. In a non-threatening game format, children will be more focused and retention will be greater.

Math games are the perfect way to develop, reinforce, and extend children’s math skills without lecturing or applying pressure. When studying math, there’s an element of repetition that’s an important part of learning new concepts and developing automatic recall of math facts. Number facts (remember those times tables?) can be boring and tedious to learn and practice. A game can generate an enormous amount of practice – practice that does not have kids complaining about how much work they are having to do. What better way can there be than an interesting game as a way of mastering them?

One of the most effective and engaging math games is War. It has many variations. Give one or more of the following a try:

More or Less

Many of you may know this game as “War”. For mathematical purposes, I think it is more appropriate to call it “More” or “Less”.

What you need:
2 players
1 deck of cards

Shuffle cards well and deal them face-down equally to all players. Players do not look at their cards. All players turn over their top card at the same time. The player with the greatest number (More) collects all the cards. In the event of a tie, players turn over one more card and put it on top of their first card. The player with the biggest number takes all four cards.

Each player might add the two cards together and the player with the biggest total would take all four cards. Or the biggest number on the second card turned over could be the winner. You decide what is most appropriate.

You follow the same rules to play “Less”. The player with the smallest number wins the cards.

Variations:

Addition War – Each player turns over two cards and adds them together. The player with the greatest sum or the smallest sum (you decide which) wins all four cards.

Addition War (3, 4, 5, etc. addends) – Each player turns over three cards and adds them together.

Subtraction War – Each player turns over two cards and subtracts the smaller number from the larger number. The player with the smallest or greatest difference (you decide which) wins.

Addition and Subtraction War – Each player turns over two cards and adds them together. Then each player turns over one more card and subtracts it from their sum. The player with the greatest or smallest difference wins. I like this game because it involves the use of two operations.

Product War – Turn up two cards and multiply.

Product War II– Turn up three (or more) cards and multiply.

Product War (advanced) – Each player turns up three cards and moves them around and arranges them in a problem where two-digit number is multiplied by a one-digit number. The player with the greatest or least product (you decide) wins.

Division War – Each player turns up three cards and moves them around and arranges them in a problem where two-digit number is divided by a one-digit number. The player with the least or greatest quotient (you decide) wins.

Fraction War – Each player turns up two cards and use the larger card as the numerator and the smaller card as the denominator (or vice versa, whichever you choose). The player with the greatest or least fraction (you choose) wins.

Integer Addition War – Each player takes two cards and adds them together. Red cards are negative (I’m in the red), and black cards are positive. The greatest sum wins.

Playful Ways to Help Your Child Learn Math

A parent’s involvement in a child’s education is the single most important factor in that child’s academic success. The single most important factor. Decades of educational research tells us that an involved parent contributes overwhelmingly to his/her child’s grades and test scores, school attendance and quality of homework, positive attitudes and behavior at school, likelihood of graduation, and desire to enroll in higher education. In many ways, as I’ll describe, you’re the essence of your child’s education; you’ve got the power!

Don’t Laugh – That’s Math
by Judith A. Zaino

Many times I’ve heard a parent say,
“I can help my child in any way,
But don’t laugh –
I can’t do math”.
I think for a minute before I say,
Let’s look at this another way.
Have you ever said, “Wait a minute:
Here’s a box with four things in it,
Let’s take turns; you first then me”,
Helped your child count branches on a tree?
Then you’re on the right path.
Don’t laugh – that’s math!
Have you taught your child left and right?
Counted her toes in bed at night?
Repeated his favorite nursery rhyme?
Said good night just one more time?
Have you ever split a cookie right in half?
Formed a pattern on a snowy path?
Well, don’t laugh – that’s math!
Have you ever played a game?
Measured for a picture frame?
Have you cut chains for your Christmas tree?
Noticed a butterfly’s wings have symmetry?
Did you ever check the miles into town?
Have you counted stairs both up and down?
Did you ever measure to see how tall?
Find the weight of her favorite doll?
Well, don’t laugh – that’s math!
Math can be seen in everything,
Even in the songs we sing.
Math isn’t just adding and subtracting,
multiplying, dividing, or even protracting.
Math exists all around us;
We didn’t find it – it found us!
Now remember, when this little poem is done,
If it has given you a small fraction of fun,
Don’t laugh – that’s math!

Family involvement is an essential element for a child’s success in mathematics and school. You are one of your child’s most valuable resources.

Math is all around us. The following math games and activities are just a few of the things you can do with your children which will nurture their mathematical development while being just plain fun!

• Count, count, and count! Young children love to count and will count everything and anything. Encourage your child to count out loud the number of steps climbed, spoons in the silverware drawer, french fries in her kids’ meal, buttons on all her shirts, etc.

• Practice classifying by separating toys into sets, such as things with wheels, things that have red on them, things that have numbers or words on them, things that roll, etc. Ask questions related to size or quantity: Which is larger? Which is largest? Which is smaller? Which is smallest? Do you have more dolls or more animals? Are their fewer dogs or fewer cats?

• Find two and three-dimensional geometric shapes, such as circles and spheres.

• Let your child help set the table. Fold napkins as rectangles one day, then as triangles the next. Find the number of legs on the chairs and table needed for everyone to eat.

• Let your child sort the laundry. Before washing, have your child sort the piles by colors or by family members. How many zippers? How many buttons? Are there more buttons or more zippers?

• Practice counting and making change. Ask your child to help you figure out how much money you have in your pocket or purse. Sort the coins. Let your child pick out the paper money and change needed when making a purchase, and have your child tell you how much change you should get back.

• Use sharing to reinforce division concepts and fraction skills. How many cookies will each child get if two children need to share 8 cookies? How many cookies will each child get if two children share 5 cookies? How can we cut the birthday cake so we can feed at least twenty people?

• Incorporate measuring during everyday activities, such as cooking, gardening, crafts, or home-improvement projects. Practice measuring things with a ruler, yardstick, tape measure, measuring cups, and scale.

• Use the kitchen to reinforce mathematics concepts and skills. Your child can practice sorting by helping put the groceries away and can practice measuring ingredients by helping cook meals, bake cookies, etc. Measuring cups are great for the sandbox or beach, too! Older children can determine how to adjust the ingredients to halve or double the recipe. After meals, your child can practice spatial reasoning skills by determining the appropriate size of containers to use for leftovers.

• Numbers are all around us! Look for numbers in the environment (e.g., addresses, sports statistics, weather forecasts, license plates, prices), and talk about what they mean and how they are used.

• Keep charts or graphs to help your child organize information and keep track of data. A child who is saving his/her allowance to buy an item might create a chart or graph to show how much he/she can save.

• Open a savings account. Work with your child to keep track of deposits, withdrawals, and interest and to compare this record with the monthly bank statement.

• Encourage a child who is a sports enthusiast to keep track of scores and statistics.

The following are two great games for young children:

Speed!

What you need:
Each player requires their own full deck of cards.

Each player holds their deck of cards until the parent says “Go”. Each player then proceeds to sort the complete deck into piles according to the same numbers as quickly as possible.

Piles MUST be put into consecutive order from smallest to greatest value. The first player to sort all their cards accordingly wins.
Play this one over and over again!

Blast Off!
What you need:
2 players
2 dice
1 set of cards 1-10 for each player

Each player arranges their cards in front of themselves in order:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Each player must get rid of their cards in sequence starting with the 10 and going down. Players must first roll a 10, then 9, etc.

Player #1 rolls the dice. Players have two rolls per turn. If player #1 does not roll a 10 in his/her 2 rolls, he/she loses the turn.

Player #2 does the same.

The first player to eliminate their cards in sequence, and is left with only the 1 is the winner.

Kids and Addition and Subtraction

If you are a first or second grade teacher or the parent of a first or second grader, you have undoubtedly observed that children find addition easier and more natural than subtraction. Children struggle with subtraction even when they learn “fact families” (1+3=4, 3+1=4, 4-1=3, 4-3=1) that ostensibly help them understand the relationship between addition and subtraction.

Given that children continue to find subtraction difficult despite the use of time-honored practices, I suggest that teachers and parents de-emphasize fluency in subtraction until their children become fluent in addition. Once children’s knowledge of a sum is solid, the related subtraction is easy for them. In other words, fluency in subtraction is dependent on fluency in addition.

The educational implication is that teachers and parents must de-emphasize fluency in subtraction in grades one and two and heavily emphasize addition. Permit children to learn sums first and then deduce differences from their knowledge of sums.

It is imperative that children have, in long-term memory, all the combinations of numbers up to and including 10.

Example: Students need to know all the combinations of 9 – 0+9, 1+8, 2+7, 3+6, 4+5, 5+4, 4+5, 3+6, 7+2, 8+1, 9+0

There is an easy and fun way to get children fluent in addition – math games! Children are intrinsically motivated to play games and to play them well. If they learn arithmetic in the process, they learn it for their own use. When teachers or parents instruct children to complete worksheets or pressure them to do well on timed tests, the children’s motivation to learn comes from external sources, and workbook pages, dittos, and timed tests aren’t nearly as much fun!

Here’s one of my favorite math games for first graders and second graders:

Add-em Up
What you need:
2 players
2 dice
counters
Add-em Up game board for each player – take a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 paper and cut it in half horizontally. Write the numbers 1 through 12 at the bottom of each paper.

Players place a counter above each number.

Player #1 rolls the dice and adds the 2 numbers. He/she may then remove the counter over the sum from the game board or the counters over any 2 numbers that add up to that same sum.

Example: Player #1 rolls a 3 and a 4. He/she may remove the
counter above the 7 or the counters above any
combination for 7, such as 1 & 6, or 2 & 5, or 3 & 4.

Players take turns rolling the dice and removing counters. When a player cannot remove counters that match the sum rolled or a combination, he/she loses that turn.

Play continues until neither player can remove counters. The player with the most counters removed wins.

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