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