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6 Games for the Math Classroom

Math games are a great way to not only get students engaged with content, but to also get them more practice in a motivating context.

Here are 6 games your upper elementary students (and you!) will love to play:

1. Heads Up, 7 Up

Math Heads Up, Seven Up is played just like the classic classroom game except for the added math twist. The students at the front of the room have number cards and they place a clue card on a student’s desk when they put down their thumb. The students who were picked use the clues to narrow down who could have picked them. 

For added fun, design the clues to fit multiple number cards. This way students use the clues to narrow down the possible answers but still have to use body language and facial cues like in the classic game to figure out who picked them.

This game works with so many math concepts–place value, rounding, equivalent fractions, and operations all work great. You can make these clues and numbers yourself or save yourself some time and use mine!

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2. Pickle

The structure of Pickle is simple and can be modified for different math concepts, but here’s a version you could play for place value practice. 

Students play with partners and need a deck of cards and a piece of paper or whiteboard that they split into 2 columns with 10 rows each.

The first student flips 3 cards and can move them in any order to form a number. 

Numbers need to go from the lowest at the bottom of the paper to the highest at the top, but students decide which box to fill in when. So a number like 564 might go somewhere in the middle even if the boxes below are empty. Once a number is placed it can’t be moved.

As their board starts filling up a student might not be able to place a number in order no matter how they rearrange the digits. They’re in a pickle!

That student has to skip their turn and they other student gets to go. The first student to fill all ten of their boxes wins!

3. Pass the Ball

This game requires students to actually work together by “passing the ball” while solving problems. This means multiple students have to take turns solving a single problem, and in this way, they learn to support one another, verbalize their strategies, and work as a team to answer questions.

These games are great opportunities to practice math content like adding and subtracting fractions, multiplying, and dividing.  And they also encourage students to work on important soft skills, like collaboration, teamwork, communication and good sportsmanship.

Plus students love the chance to earn points for their team by shooting the basketball each time they complete a problem!

Save yourself the time of creating the questions with these already created Pass the Ball games!

4. Teacher Says

Have a few minutes between activities? Try this variation on Simon Says. 

Teacher Says works perfectly for practicing geometry concepts. You can decide on the motions for each word ahead of time.

All students stand up and you call out instructions like Teacher says show me an acute angle. 

Students make an acute angle with their arms.

Teacher says make a line segment.

Students hold out their arms with their hands in fists for endpoints.

When a student makes the wrong movement or does it when you don’t say “Teacher says” first, they have to sit down.

5. Headbands

Write math terms (from your current unit or a previous one for review) on post-its.

Students put the post-its on their heads without reading them and then take turns giving each other clues until they figure out their words.

This works especially well for units like geometry, measurement, and fractions, when there are lots of new vocabulary terms.

6. 20 Questions

In this game you come up with a secret number and students get to ask yes or no questions to figure it out.

 This open-ended structure allows all students to participate by asking questions they feel comfortable with. Some students may ask about specific place value while others ask if it’s even and some may ask if there’s a 4 in the number.

And when they figure it out, they’ll all feel the satisfaction of beating the teacher!

I hope you and your students feel engaged and motivated practicing math with these games!