Math Games for the Elementary School Classroom

Have you ever wondered why some high school students still don’t know their multiplication tables? If they had been exposed to some simple math games in elementary school, they probably wouldn’t still be struggling. Games are a great way to include all learning styles and reach every student in your class. Enthusiasm is contagious! When I introduce a new math game to my students with excitement and joy in my voice, they respond in kind.

Coming from an elementary, as well as physical education background, I not only use conventional math games, but I also use math games that involve large motor skills. Instead of insisting that kids stay in their seats, they get to jump and hop as they learn math. Young children love to move, so when you combine math and movement, you are sure to have a winner!

MATH WAR is a great partner game that can be modified for many age and skill levels. All you need is a deck of cards (minus the picture cards). Each student flips a card over and the first one to add the exposed numbers together wins those cards. You can modify this game and have the children subtract or multiply the numbers instead. Kids who didn’t want to learn their multiplication tables suddenly want to know the answers so that they will win the game.

BEACH BALL MATH requires the teacher to section off a ball into squares with a marker. Each square houses a math problem (add, subtract, multiply, divide, etc). The children toss the ball to each other, and when they catch it, they answer the problem under their right thumb. For young children the problem can be as simple as identifying numbers or shapes, and for older children a way of practicing multiplication or division facts.

MATH TOSS is a favorite game for all ages. The teacher paints and numbers shapes on a large foam board. In each shape, they cut holes big enough for a small beanbag to fit through. Being sure not to cover the holes, they then glue or staple the board to a large cardboard box. The children toss two beanbags into the holes and either add, subtract or multiply the numbers together. Use your imagination with the older students and have them square the numbers first and then add them together.

SKIP JUMP MATH is a favorite game for young children. Using lighter colored vinyl, cut out shapes, number them with marker, and tape them to the floor. The students jump from shape to shape, saying each number as they land. The children can skip count by 1’s, 2’s, 3’s,etc. They can jump in ascending or descending order. Skip jumping is a great way to introduce multiplication.

Use your creativity! Any of these games can be modified to fit all age groups or concepts that you are teaching (even phonics or sight words). Create your own games using the kid’s favorite activities. It could be anything from “soccer math” to “math bingo.” I hope that I have sparked your imagination, so that you will invent innovative and exciting games for your students. Have fun! I know your students will.