Play Math with Your Kids for Free

One of the most common questions I get from parents who want to help their children enjoy math is, “Where do we start?”

My favorite answer: “Play games!”

And in this time of pandemic crisis, it’s even more important for families to play together. So my publisher agreed to make my ebook Let’s Play Math Sampler: 10 Family-Favorite Games for Learning Math Through Play free for the duration.

When you’re stuck at home and getting bored, it’s a great time to play math with your kids.

Math games meet children each at their own level. The child who sits at the head of the class can solidify skills. The child who lags behind grade level can build fluency and gain confidence.

And both will learn something even more important: that hard mental effort can be fun.

The Let’s Play Math Sampler contains short excerpts from my most popular books, including a preview of two games from my work-in-progress Prealgebra & Geometry Games.

Don’t miss it: Download your copy today.

Free Online Preview

Ebook available FREE at most bookstores:
Amazon-logo google-play-badge Barnes-Noble-logo kobo-logo apple-books-badge Scribd_logo and other online retailers.

NOTE: Has your favorite store refused to adjust its price? (I’m looking at you, Amazon!) Try this link, and the good folks at BookFunnel will help you load the ebook file to your reading device (phone, Kindle, etc.): https://bookhip.com/SAATAW.

Or you can order the paperback by special request at your favorite local bookshop.

“Denise Gaskins is that sound voice of reason that comes into my head when I get agitated teaching. This isn’t performance — this is play. My kids aren’t on trial, they are learning to learn.”

—Sonya Post

“By exploring math in a playful way, your kids will be happy to learn and will discover an enjoyment of math in the process. You might even have fun, too! ”

—Olisia Yeend

NOTE: In many locations, you can get the rest of my playful math books free if you request them on your library app or through your local librarian.

Playing Math with A.A. Milne

Halfway down the stairs
Is a stair
Where I sit.
There isn’t any
Other stair
Quite like
It.
I’m not at the bottom,
I’m not at the top;
So this is the stair
Where
I always
Stop.

Halfway up the stairs
Isn’t up
And isn’t down.
It isn’t in the nursery,
It isn’t in the town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head:
“It isn’t really
Anywhere!
It’s somewhere else
Instead!”

—A.A. Milne
When We Were Very Young (affiliate link, see details)

The Stair-Counting Game

Play on any set of stairs where you won’t get in other people’s way. Start at the halfway step.

  • Roll one 6-sided die. Go up that number of steps.
  • Roll again. This time, go down that number of steps.
  • Keep rolling the die, alternating movements up and down.

Will you ever escape the stairs?

Fill the Stairs Game

Each player draws 11 stair steps (counting the top and bottom floors) on a piece of paper. Write zero on your middle step.

Remove the face cards and jokers from a deck of playing cards. Mix the remaining cards face down in a fishing pond.

  • On your turn, choose one card. Red cards are negative numbers, and black cards are positive.
  • Write the number from your card on one of your stair steps.
  • Then mix your card back into the pond.
  • The first player to fill their stairs with numbers in order wins the game.

The numbers have to grow as you go up the stairs and get smaller going down. But you can skip numbers. For instance, you could put +2 on the stair above zero, if you like. Or you could write −4 two steps below zero, leaving only one blank in between.

If you draw a card that will not fit on your stairs, you lose that turn. Mix the card back into the pond without writing anything.

If you make a mistake — like putting +9 too close to the middle, so there’s no way to fill the higher stairs — you can use a turn to erase one number on your stairs. You don’t get to choose a new card on the same turn as erasing a number.

Fill the Stairs Variations

Help young students understand negative numbers. A stairway makes an excellent number line visual.

Download the place value version (no negative numbers) of the stairway game from Math for Love.

Or discover variations for all grade levels at Math Hombre blog. I especially like John’s Decimal Point Pickle game. And the exponential version looks like a fun challenge.

Your Turn

Do you play stairway math? Please tell us your games and variations in the comment section below.

Or share other ideas for playing math with children. I love to hear new ways to play!

2020 Mathematics Game — Join the Fun!

New Year’s Day

Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.

Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time.

However, go in, community. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.

— Mark Twain
Letter to Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, Jan. 1863
quoted in Early Tales & Sketches, Vol. 1: 1851-1864 (affiliate link)

If you’d like to enjoy a mathematical New Year’s Resolution, may I recommend Evelyn Lamb’s Math Reading Challenge? I haven’t decided if I’m going to follow along, but it does look like fun.

Meanwhile, I do resolve to challenge myself with more math puzzles this year. Would you like to join me?

Here’s a great way to start: with the 2020 Mathematics Game!

Click here to continue reading.

Playing with a Hundred Chart #35: The Number Grid Game

This is a pretty simple game, but it makes a nice variation on the Race-to-100 game for young children who need to work on counting by tens from any number.

See the Number Grid Game (PDF)

How to Play

You’ll need a 6-sided die, a hundred chart (printables here), and a small token to mark each player’s square. A crumpled bit of colored construction paper works well as a token.

Take turns rolling the die. If you roll:

  • 1: Move either 1 or 10 squares, your choice.
  • 2: Move either 2 or 20 squares.
  • 3–6: Move that number of squares.

The first player to reach the final square by exact count wins the game.

Variation #1: For a shorter game, the first player to move off the board wins. You don’t have to hit the final square by exact count.

Variation #2: For a longer game, if you cannot move your full roll forward, you must move backward. Rolling 6 is a “wild card” — you can move any number from one to ten.

Variation #3: Count down. Start at the highest number on your chart and subtract each roll, moving toward zero. If you have a chart like the original shown above, a player whose move goes past zero into negatives will add the number on their next roll.

More Ways to Play on a Hundred Chart

A hundred chart can provide mathematical play from preschool to high school. The list on my blog began many years ago with seven activities, games, and logic puzzles.

Wow, has it grown!

Discover 30+ Things To Do with a Hundred Chart

New Math Board Game: MULTI on Kickstarter

If the math classic The Product Game got together with Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe, this game would be their child.

According to game creator Federico Chialvo, “MULTI is a fantastic 2-player math game designed with the joy of mathematics in mind. This game is so fun your kids won’t want to stop playing, and neither will you!”

Originally designed for students in 2nd-5th grade, MULTI helps children develop fluency with multiplication facts and the relationship between multiples and factors. Even better, the rich strategy and gameplay can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

If you want to play math with an elementary-age child, check out the Kickstarter:

Click Here for the MULTI Game on Kickstarter

“Mathematics is a polarizing topic! For some, it is a fountain of wonder, beauty, and intrigue. For others, it is a cold dark thing, something to be avoided or even feared. Yet, my experience has shown that everyone can find joy in mathematics when it is presented in the right way.”

—Federico Chialvo
MULTI – Math Board Game – Fun For All Ages!

Math Game: Place Value Fish

Math Concepts: addition, subtraction, place value to six or seven digits.
Players: two or more.
Equipment: pencil and paper.

Set-Up

Each player needs a sheet of blank or lined paper, and a pencil.

At the top of your page, write a 6-digit number. All the digits must be different, and none of them can be zero.

How to Play

On your turn, you go fishing for points. Ask one other player, “Give me your _____’s.” The blank is for the single-digit number of your choice.

The other player answers, “You get _____.” This blank is for the value of that digit in the other player’s number.

For example, suppose you asked for 5’s. If the other player has a 5 in the tens place of his number, you get 50 points. But if 5 was in the ten-thousands place, you would get 50,000. And if there is no 5 at all, you get zero.

You add those points to your number. The other player subtracts the points from his number.

Then it’s the next player’s turn to go fishing.

Notice These Rules

Your number may change with each turn (except when you get zero). Always use your most recent number to add or subtract the fishing points.

If you have more than one of the digit asked for (like the player on the left above, who has two 7’s), you may choose which one to give away. That is, you can give the other player 70 points and not even mention the 7,000.

Endgame

Keep taking turns until every player gets five chances to fish for points. After five rounds, whoever has the highest score wins the game.

UNLESS the winner made an arithmetic error.

Be sure to check each other’s math, because any player who makes a mistake automatically loses the game.

Share the Fun

If you try this math game with your kids, I’d love to hear how it goes. Please drop a comment below.

And tell us about your favorite math game, so we can all play that, too. 😀

CREDITS: This game comes from Michael Schiro’s book Mega-Fun Math Games: 70 Quick-and-Easy Games to Build Math Skills. Feature photo (top) by Ruben Ortega via Unsplash.