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Benefits of Using Math Games

Benefits of Using Math Games

• 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

Using Math Games To Meet State Standards

Using Math Games To Meet State Standards

Your state’s mathematics standards are intended as a statement of what students should learn, or what they should have accomplished, at particular stages of their schooling. The goal of every state’s math standards is to engage students in meaningful mathematical problem-solving experiences, build math knowledge and skills, increase students’ ability to communicate mathematically, and increase their desire to learn mathematics. Those are the goals for math games, too!

Specific content knowledge will vary according to the game students play and the connection to school-day learning and the state standards. A major goal for students in the elementary grades is to develop an understanding of the properties of and the relationships among numbers. One of the very effective ways teachers can reinforce the development and practice of number concepts, logical reasoning, and mathematical communication is by using math games. Games are great for targeted practice on whatever standard the children need to meet.

You will meet significantly more of your state’s grade- level mathematics standards by having your children play a game than will have been met by having them complete a ditto or a workbook page.

At all my teacher trainings, I begin by giving the teachers a quiz using a ditto with many three-digit addition problems. We then proceed to look at the mathematics standards, and the teachers decide which standards (or parts of each standard) were met by doing the ditto.

We then play a three-digit addition game, and, again, look at the standards. The teachers decide which standards were met by playing the game. Here are the results:

Standards Met


As you can see, not only did we meet more standards by playing the game, but many of the standards were met more fully! Many teachers are surprised at this result, but once they begin to use games in their classrooms to help their students learn and reinforce math skills, they are convinced.

Many people (teachers, administrators, and parents) think of games as being “fluff” – only to be used when recess has to be indoors, or for use the last 10 minutes in class on Fridays, or, occasionally, for small group center work. Once teachers begin to watch what happens as students play games, they almost always change their minds.

Here are California’s Math Standards:

Kindergarten Math Standards
First Grade Math Standards
Second Grade Math Standards
Third Grade Math Standards
Fourth Grade Math Standards
Fifth Grade Math Standards
Sixth Grade Math Standards

Cards and Dice for Teachers

Cards and Dice for Teachers

I began playing math games with my students using regular decks of cards. However, over the years, I developed my own cards for several important reasons:

• Regular cards do not have a zero, and zero is much too important in our base ten system to leave out. Turning a queen or king into a zero is confusing for most children.

• While teaching first grade, I discovered the ten-frame. It allowed children to easily count the dots, if they needed to do so and anchored the students to ten – a very important learning tool with our base 10 numbering system. It is easy to see how many more are needed to make 10 if you have a 7, or 5, or 9, etc.

• And lastly, these cards help children see if a number is odd or even. If there is a dot that doesn’t have a partner, it is an odd number. If all dots have a partner, it is an even number.

Masters for the these special cards can be found on the CD with directions for printing, laminating, and cutting out.


(random number generators)

All that you will really need are regular dice. They are really cheap and easy to find at stores such as The Dollar Tree, the 99¢ Store, etc. For the most part, you will need two dice. There are a couple of games that require more. One of my favorites is Oops! which requires five dice.

I also like those 1 ½ inch foam dice for younger children. You can get 12 for $4.99 (plus shipping and handling) at the Oriental Trading Company. They make counting the dots much easier.

Some games need teacher-made dice. I buy those small wooden cubes from a crafts store or an educational supply store and mark them according to the instructions on the game.

Using Games To Teach Math In The Classroom

Using Games To Teach Math In The Classroom

When I first started to work on the use of games in the classroom, I was amazed at what I began to see happening! Here are a few of my discoveries about games where children can learn and practice math:

• Many of the games lead students to talk mathematics.
• Games forced students to justify their reasoning.
• Games put pressure on players to work mentally.
• Games did not define the way in which a problem had to be solved or worked out.
• Students began to explore and learn new strategies by working and talking with each other as they played.
• A game could often be played at more than one level allowing the teacher to differentiate instruction.


Teachers who observe and interact with children while they are playing math games can diagnose a wide variety of their mathematical strengths and weaknesses. In assessing learning through math games, teachers’ concerns are not just confined to the children’s levels of factual knowledge. Rather, they may also note, record, and analyze the following:

• reasoning and problem-solving skills,
• the forms of children’s responses,
• the processes that children employ in solving problems and arriving at answers,
• children’s patterns of persistence and curiosity, and
• their ability to work with peers, adults, and a variety of resources.

In addition, the recording sheets that children produce while playing games can be placed in assessment portfolios, where they can be of great value to children, teachers, and parents.

Finally, games provide children with a powerful way of assessing their own mathematical abilities. The immediate feedback children receive from their peers while playing games can help them evaluate their mathematical concepts and algorithms and revise inefficient, inadequate, or erroneous ones.

Good games evaluate children’s progress. They provide feedback so that teachers, parents, and the child know what they have done well and what they need to practice.


Calculators can be quite helpful for settling questions about answers, executing complex calculations, or keeping track of players’ cumulative scores. Use your judgment as to whether calculators will speed up or defeat the purpose of the game.

Recording Sheets

Many of the games include recording sheets. Recording the problems solved while playing a math game can leave a mathematical trail that is of great value to children, teachers, and parents. Children can feel a sense of accomplishment as they look back at all of the math work they have done; teachers can use the records for assessment; and parents will appreciate this “evidence” that their children are actually doing mathematics and not just playing games.


Many people think that a quiet room is one in which learning is taking place. I strongly disagree with that tenet. When children are playing games, they need to be able to talk with each other. This talk can be very constructive if children take responsibility to make sure that all players in a game understand the algorithms, concepts, and facts being used within the game. Sharing strategies with each other helps everyone see different ways to play. The bottom line is: Teach each other and learn from each other.

Competitive Versus Noncompetitive Games

Most of the games on these CDs have been designed as competitive games where the high scorer wins. All can be transformed into games where the high scorer is not the winner or into noncompetitive games.

For example: Children can roll a die. If the number rolled is an even number, the player with the highest number or score wins the game. If an odd number is rolled, the player with the least number or score is the winner.

Many of the games can be played in such a way that players keep track of their own individual scores over a period of days and try to better their previous day’s scores. Children can enjoy keeping graphs of this information themselves.

Using Math Games as Homework for Parent Involvement

Using Math Games as Homework for Parent Involvement

More and more in my teaching career, 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 will offer greater opportunities for their children to succeed in math if they support the learning of the basics at home. Games fit the bill wonderfully!

Games offer a pleasant way for parents to get involved in their children’s education. Parents don’t have to be math geniuses to play a game. They don’t have to worry about pushing or pressuring their children. All that parents have to do is propose a game to their child and start to play.

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 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?

Sending a letter to parents that tells them how and why math games will be used in your classroom is a good idea. It can allay any doubts that may arise when their children come home describing how they “played games during math today!” Sending an already-learned game home with children to play with parents as part of homework is also useful. This helps give parents a sense of what can be learned from math games that are not workbook-or ditto-based.

On the CD, there is a copy of a parent letter and a response form for parents to fill out as a result of playing the game with their child.

Games and English-Language Learners and Special-Needs Children

Games and English-Language Learners and Special-Needs...

Because math games require active involvement, use concrete objects and manipulatives, and are hands-on, they are ideal for all learners. Games provide opportunities for children to work in small groups, practice teamwork, cooperation, and effective communication. Children learn from each other as they talk, share, and reflect throughout game times. Language acquisition is meaningful and understandable.

Games can easily be one of the components of cooperative learning. Cooperative learning is an extremely valuable technique to be used in empowering nontraditional students. It is different from traditional group work, which is often the work of only one or two members of a larger group. It can be described as a group of no more than six members who ALL work together to complete instructional activities. It embodies five essential elements:

1. Positive interdependence.
2. Face-to-face interaction.
3. Individual accountability.
4. Use of interpersonal and small-group skills.
5. Periodic and regular group processing.

Math games, used in a cooperative learning context, solidify the achievements of children who are already good at math, and they shore up children who need shoring up.

You can easily vary the games within the CD to differentiate instruction and suit the needs of the children who will play them. Some variations have been described within many of the games. Changes can be made by:

• altering the operations used within the games. If it is an addition game, try changing it to subtraction, or multiplication, etc.
• changing the numbers used in the game. They can be easier or harder, greater or smaller. Instead of working at the tens level, bump the game up to involve hundreds or thousands.
• The rules of the games can be altered.

You can be creative in transforming the games into new forms, and please allow children and parents to do likewise.

Using Games With Your District-Mandated Textbook

Using Games With Your District-Mandated Textbook

No matter which textbook your district uses, games can easily be incorporated into instruction. Some textbook companies are “seeing the light” and have begun to implement games as a part of each unit.

Even if your textbook does not incorporate games, identify a skill need almost all your students have, and give a game a try. I guarantee it will be more of a learning experience for the students and more informative for you of what your students know and can do than a workbook page.