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While predictable structures and procedures have their place in the math classroom, they can also lead to glazed expressions and staring out the window.

So let’s up our teaching game by bringing some excitement and engagement to the math classroom by playing a little hooky.

I have this clear memory of my mom driving me to elementary school one morning and asking if I wanted to play hooky.

She never had any intention of actually skipping school but the 5-minute detour we went on was all we needed to break up the routine, to add a little excitement. 

A 5-minute detour is all our students need too. 

Here are 4 ways you can get your students (and yourself) excited for learning with math fun!

1. Don’t wait until the end of class to make the content exciting–kick off the lesson with a fun content-related game.

I like to start our math lesson with a game, either reviewing previous content or previewing new content. 

We jump into math with a couple rounds of math Heads Up, Seven Up. And this has totally changed the way I feel about teaching math and my students feel about learning math.

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. You can make these clues and numbers yourself or save yourself some time and use mine!

Check out 6 Games for the Math Classroom for more ideas!

Want to try a Heads Up, Seven Up game for free? Grab the FREE area and perimeter version here!

2. Split up a longer lesson with activities and games that get students out of their seats. 

When a lesson is particularly content-heavy or the material doesn’t seem to be holding students’ attention, try breaking it up every 15 minutes or so with a few of these activities:

  • Before the lesson, put task cards around the room and have students solve 1 or 2 at a time when focus on the lesson starts to drift.
  • Play a quick round of Teacher Says! This is just like Simon Says but with math concepts (ie. make an acute angle with your arms, turn 180 degrees to the left, etc.)
  • Write math terms on post-its for a quick game of Headbands. Students put the post-its on their heads without reading them and take turns giving each other clues until they figure out their words.

3. Encourage collaboration and strategy discussion through team-based games.

Students can learn so much by working through math problems together and explaining their thinking. That’s why we love playing 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.

4. Incorporate technology in interesting ways.

Students love game sites like Blooket and Kahoot and there are premade questions for just about any math concept you could want on both sites. 

Another way my students stay engaged with math on the computer is through these digital Heads Up, Seven Up games. Students love them because they can play them on their own when they finish their work early, and I love them because they’re self-grading and provide models and explanations when students need support. 


Want to try Heads Up, Seven Up for free? Grab the FREE area and perimeter version here!

Have fun playing educational hooky!

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Say Goodbye to Boring Math Lessons: 4 Ways to Make Math Content Exciting