Great Games for Elementary School Classroom

This is a great game to review math skills in the elementary school classroom. It challenges students to work in teams and to work quickly and accurately. They also get to display their answers in a fun, creative way.

Math is Tops!

Beforehand, the teacher will collect several dozen milk or juice jug lids in at least six different colors. Ask students and fellow school teachers to contribute the type that twist on, and show them an example so lids are uniform in size and shape. Within a week or so, you should have plenty.

Next, assign a number value to each lid and write in on the lid with permanent black marker. For example: if blue lids stand for 100, write 100 on top. Continue with the rest of the lid colors: red = 50, yellow = 20, green = 10, orange = 5, purple = 1, or however you wish to do them. The number “1” should be written on those lids that are most plentiful, because you will use them often. The fewer you have of one color, the higher the value, since you may not need them as often.

Math is Tops!

To play games, divide students into small groups, perhaps 4-6 in a group. The teacher will write an addition or subtraction problem on the board. Teams may assemble lids in any color combination they choose, as long as it equals the right answer. When a group is finished, they should raise their hands so the teacher can jot down who finished first. The group that finishes first with the correct answer wins points. If another group ties with them and has a different combination of lid colors with the right answer, they also win points.


The teacher writes on the board 18 + 25 + 25 = ? Two different combinations for the answer, 68, would be: 1 red + 1 green + 1 orange + 3 purple lids = 68, OR 2 yellow + 1 green +3 orange + 3 purple lids = 68.

When a team says “finished” or raises their hands, ask them to share their answer by calling out the number of each color of lid. Be sure the lid color names and their values are displayed on the board so other teams can check the answer as it is called out. If the answer is incorrect, the next team gets to try. Any team seen shuffling their lids (changing their answer)is not eligible to participate on this particular problem.

Another example of an addition problem: 35 + 50 + 21 = ? Three different combinations for the answer 106, would be: 1 blue + 1 orange + 1 purple = 106, OR 2 red + 1 orange + 1 purple, OR 5 yellow + 6 purple lids.

For subtraction, the teacher writes a problem on the board and has the students find the answer and display it with their lids. First group to raise their hand and have the right answer wins a point. Any tying groups also win if their combination of lids is different.

Examples: 97 – 49 = ? Some combinations that are acceptable for the answer 48 include: 2 yellows +1 orange + 3 purple lids, OR 4 green + 8 purple lids. An example for older students: 233 – 179 = ? Possible answers: 1 red + 4 purples, OR 1 yellow + 2 green, + 4 purple lids. Any combination that shows the answer 54 is acceptable.

What makes this game so much fun is the excitement of competition, the cooperation of teamwork, and the creative combination of colors that are possible. Math Tops is a great game for the elementary school classroom. The more you play it, the more you’ll learn about your students.

As they work together, they will display their strengths to win as a team. One may be quicker at figuring the problem posted on the board; another may be good at lining up the lids while others hold certain colors and contribute them as they are requested. Rotate students now and then so children have opportunities to team up with different classmates.

Fun elementary games + math problems = better students in the school classroom!