I am a strong believer that math games are one of the most effective and engaging ways for young mathematicians to practice basic math skills. I was not always a believer…math games used to give me major teacher anxiety because I was always doubting whether the kids were truly focused and learning. If the idea of incorporating games into your math block seems daunting, you have come to the right place.
The key to success when it comes to math games is the right combination of low-prep, easy-to-learn (yet rigorous) games and clear modeling. With these ingredients for perfection, incorporating games into your math curriculum becomes a real treat for everyone in the classroom.
Tip #1: Host A Demo Round
The first key to successful game play in your classroom is modeling. Rather than reading the game instructions to your class and hoping for the best, host a demo round.
MODELING SET UP:
Invite one of your students to play a round of the game against you while the rest of your class sits/stands fishbowl-style to watch and learn.
MODELING HOW TO:
- Read aloud the game objectives, materials list and share think-alouds as you set up the game.
- During the first few minutes of game play, share think-alouds for each move. Be sure to emphasize the thoughts you have when your partner is taking their turn. This will help students understand how to stay engaged even when it’s not their turn.
- Pause the game to answer any questions about set up and game play.
- Let your students know you are going to show them how mathematicians REALLY play the game. This is your chance to model for your kids that playing math games is exciting, yet calm and quiet. Emphasize sitting close to your partner, using a whisper voice and using hands motions. This shows kids it’s easy to communicate while playing without being loud and disruptive.
- Have students share what they noticed about how real mathematicians play the game.
- Dismiss all students to give the game a try and walk the room to help those who may have questions during their first round.
- Debrief as a class what went well and have kids suggest improvements for future game sessions.
Tip #2: Find High Quality, Rigorous Math Games
The second key ingredient to math game success is finding the right games.
Pinterest is well stocked with low-prep math games that require dominoes and playing cards. I love the easy set up. Unfortunately, I ran into the same list of problems with most of my favorite game ideas.
Typical Math Game Problems:
- Game instructions written for adults/teachers who would likely sit and play these games along with a child/student.
- DIY game boards that would not hold up in a classroom.
- Not enough math vocabulary incorporated into game play.
- Inconsistent formatting.
I know I’m not the only teacher frustrated with these #teacherproblems, so I transformed these semi-usable game ideas into what I hope is your math game dream come true! Take a peek at Math In Motion Hands On Math Games.
Math In Motion Hands on Math Games Features:
Here are a few features of my Math In Motion Hands-On Math Games:
- Handy printable game cards that can be used as a “ticket to play” so the number of students playing at one time is self-monitored.
- Game titles that include academic language.
- Standards-aligned game objectives written in student-friendly language.
- Instructions written in student-friendly language.
- Instructions on who the first player should be (no more wasted time playing rock-paper-scissors).
- Ideas for how to make each game more challenging for your high-achievers.
- Consistent formatting students and teachers can rely on.
Tip #3: Take the Leap
I hope you have gleaned a few golden game-play nuggets that encourage you to take the leap towards incorporating math games in your classroom. Your students will thank you and you will be thrilled with how engaged your students are when it’s time to pull a small group!
If you’re looking for an easy way to start your math game collection, or you’re just looking to make math games more streamlined and manageable in your classroom, you may be interested in Math In Motion Hands On Math Games by Core Inspiration. The links below will lead you to the larger game bundles for each grade level, but you can grab each individual game set as well.