“Games put children in exactly the right frame of mind for learning difficult things.
“Children relax when they play — and they concentrate. They don’t mind repeating certain facts or procedures over and over, if repetition is part of the game.
“Children throw themselves into playing games the way they never throw themselves into filling out workbook pages.
“The games solidify the achievements of children who are already good at math, and they shore up children who need shoring up. They teach or reinforce many of the skills that a formal curriculum teaches, plus one skill that formal teaching sometimes leaves out — the skill of having fun with math, of thinking hard and enjoying it.
“If you play these games and your child learns only that hard mental effort can be fun, you will have taught something invaluable.”
Teacher calls out numbers consecutively, starting at 0.
When a student hears their number being called they immediately raise a hand. When the teacher tags the hand, they stand up.
If more than one hand was raised, those students lose. They become your helpers, tagging raised hands.
If only one hand was raised, that child wins the round.
“Each game takes about 45 seconds,” Hamilton says. “This is part of the key to its success. Children who have not learned the art of losing are quickly thrown into another game before they have a chance to get sad.”
The experience of mathematics should be profound and beautiful. Too much of the regular K-12 mathematics experience is trite and true. Children deserve tough, beautiful puzzles.
What are the best numbers to pick? Patrick Vennebush hosted on online version of the game at his Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog a few years back, though we didn’t have to bend over into rocks—which is a good thing for some of us older folks.
Counting all the fractional variations, my massive blog post 30+ Things to Do with a Hundred Chart now offers nearly forty ideas for playing around with numbers from preschool to prealgebra.
Here is the newest entry, a variation on #10, the “Race to 100” game:
(11.5) Play “Odd-Even-Prime Race.″ Roll two dice. If your token is starting on an odd number, move that many spaces forward. From an even number (except 2), move backward — but never lower than the first square. If you are starting on a prime number (including 2), you may choose to either add or multiply the dice and move that many spaces forward. The first person to reach or pass 100 wins the game. [Hat tip: Ali Adams in a comment on another post.]
And here’s a question for your students:
If you’re sitting on a prime number, wouldn’t you always want to multiply the dice to move farther up the board? Doesn’t multiplying always make the number bigger?
Math Concepts: basic facts of addition, multiplication. Players: one. Equipment: one deck of math cards (poker- or bridge-style playing cards with the face cards and jokers removed).
The best way to practice the math facts is through the give-and-take of conversation, orally quizzing each other and talking about how you might figure the answers out. But occasionally your child may want a simple, solitaire method for review.
Math Concepts: sorting by attribute (card suits), counting up, counting down, standard rank of playing cards (aces low). Players: two or more, best with four to six. Equipment: one complete deck of cards (including face cards), or a double deck for more than six players. Provide a card holder for young children.
How to Play
Deal out all the cards, even if some players get more than others. The player to the dealer’s left begins by playing a seven of any suit. If that player does not have a seven, then the play passes left to the first player who does.
After that, on your turn you may lay down another seven or play on the cards that are already down. If you cannot play, say, “Pass.”
Once a seven is played in any suit, the six and the eight of that suit may be played on either side of it, forming the fan. Then the five through ace can go on the six in counting-down order, and the nine through king can go on the eight, counting up. You can arrange these cards to overlap each other so the cards below are visible, or you can square up the stacks so only the top card is seen.
Students can explore prime and non-prime numbers with two free favorite classroom games: The Factor Game (pdf lesson download) or Tax Collector. For $15-20 you can buy a downloadable file of the beautiful, colorful, mathematical board game Prime Climb. Or try the following game by retired Canadian math professor Jerry Ameis:
Math Concepts: multiples, factors, composite numbers, and primes. Players: only two. Equipment: pair of 6-sided dice, 10 squares each of two different colors construction paper, and the game board (click the image to print it, or copy by hand).
On your turn, roll the dice and make a 2-digit number. Use one of your colored squares to mark a position on the game board. You can only mark one square per turn.
If your 2-digit number is prime, cover a PRIME square.
If any of the numbers showing are factors of your 2-digit number, cover one of them.
BUT if there’s no square available that matches your number, you lose your turn.
The first player to get three squares in a row (horizontal, vertical, or diagonal) wins. Or for a harder challenge, try for four in a row.
Feature photo at top of post by Jimmie via flickr (CC BY 2.0). This game was featured in the Math Teachers At Play (MTaP) math education blog carnival: MTaP #79. Hat tip: Jimmie Lanley.
Math Concepts: addition to thirty-one, thinking ahead. Players: best for two. Equipment: one deck of math cards.
How to Play
Lay out the ace to six of each suit in a row, face up and not overlapping, one suit above another. You will have one column of four aces, a column of four twos, and so on—six columns in all.
The first player flips a card upside down and says its number value. Players alternate, each time turning down one card, mentally adding its value to the running total, and saying the new sum out loud. The player who exactly reaches thirty-one, or who forces the next player to go over that sum, wins the game.