Math Games for Third Graders

It may seem obvious to most third grade teachers and parents of third graders that multiplication is THE big skill to be learned in third grade. There are many great multiplication games for third graders.

However, as an elementary mathematics specialist, I have noticed that a great many third graders struggle with regrouping (borrowing and carrying). Most of the time, this is because they have been taught place value with only pencil and paper activities, which are not an effective or concrete enough way to teach place value for real understanding.

Once children have developed a basic number sense for numbers up to ten, a strong “sense of ten” needs to be developed as a foundation for both place value and mental calculations.

Ten is, of course, the building block of our Base Ten numeration system. Young children can usually “read” two-digit numbers long before they understand the effect the placement of each digit has on its numerical value. For example, a five-year-old might be able to correctly read 62 as sixty-two and 26 as twenty-six, and even know which number is larger, without understanding why the numbers are of differing values.

Place value is vitally important to all later mathematics. Without it, keeping track of greater numbers rapidly becomes impossible. (Can you imagine trying to write 999 with only ones?) A thorough mastery of place value is essential to learning the operations with greater numbers. It is the foundation for regrouping in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

The follow are two very effective math games for teaching and reinforcing place value:

Double- or Triple-Digit Addition

What you need:
2 players
deck of cards – 10s and face cards removed
paper and pencil for each person

Shuffle deck and place cards in a pile face down. Players take turns taking a card until both players have 4 cards (for double –digit addition) or 6 cards (for triple-digit addition) and arrange them to make a two- or three-digit addition problem. The object is to make the greatest sum. When each player is done arranging their cards, they write their problem down and find their sum. Players exchange papers and check each other’s addition.

The player with the greatest sum scores a point. Each player takes four or 6 new cards and play continues. The first player with 10 points is the winner.

Variation #1: the player with the smallest sum wins.

Double- or Triple-Digit Subtraction

What you need:
2 players
deck of cards, 10s and face cards removed
paper and pencils

Shuffle cards well and stack them face down in a pile. Both players take four cards (for double-digit subtraction) or 6 cards (for triple-digit subtraction). Players arrange their cards to make a two-digit or three-digit subtraction problem. The object is to make the smallest difference (answer).

Players move their four or six cards around until they think they have the smallest difference (answer) possible. Each player then writes down his/her problem and solves it. Players trade papers and check each other’s computation for accuracy. Players compare answers. The player with the smallest difference (answer) scores one point.

Each player takes 4 or 6 more cards and play continues. The first player to score 10 points is the winner.

Variation: Player with the greatest difference wins.