6 Math Games and Puzzles
Kids Can't Resist

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Research shows that math games and puzzles can dramatically improve your students scores and enhance a love of learning about mathematics.

Using games makes understanding difficult concepts much easier. This is especially important for students who may be struggling with understanding how our number system works.

math games and puzzles

According to a recent study by Seigler and Ramani, students show significant increases in number sense when playing games.

This is also supported through research conducted by the Carnegie Mellon University.

In fact, students who play board games show a statistically greater advantage in math over students who engage in little to no time playing games.

The studies also show that teachers can improve conceptual understanding, application, mental math, and problem solving skills simply by using math games as a regular part of their lesson plans.

It is recommended that teachers send home math games and puzzles for parents to play with their child.  This offers a great opportunity for parents to be involved with their kids education in a non-stressful environment, which will also help build positive feelings about learning mathematics.

6 Easy Math Games and Puzzles

Clear the Ten Frame

You will need three dice, 10 markers and a Ten Frame.  To teach the game I draw a Ten Frame on the board and put an X in each square.  When the students play it with a partner, they will use the markers and place them on the Ten Frame to start the game.

1.  Roll the three dice and write the numbers on the board.

2.  Ask the class to describe any ways they can see that they can make the number 10 (the last square on the Ten Frame).  If they can, remove an X.  Now you are showing the number 9.  Ask them if they can use any of the numbers to make 9.  Continue this pattern until you have to roll the dice again (there is no way to make the next number).  You cannot skip a number (say you are on 5 but they can see a way to make 3.  You cannot do it until 5 and 4 have been made and removed).

3.  One, two or all three dice can be used. 

4.  The game is finished when every number has been made, in order.

Going to Boston: Math Facts

This easy math game requires three dice and pencil & paper.

In one turn, the first player rolls all three dice. The highest roll is put aside. The next two dice are rolled and the highest number is put aside again. The last dice is rolled, then all three dice are added together.

The winner is whoever gets to a predetermined amount first, such as 100.

Variations on the game are adding the first two dice and multiplying the sum by the third; using any combination of addition, subtraction, multiplication or division to get the highest number possible, or just using two dice to practice basic math facts (addition, subtraction or multiplication).

Math Games and Puzzles: Apps for iPad, iPhone and iTouch

G2 Math HD - Mintmomeg - tons of early numeracy skills, primary and intermediate learners. This app is a great value for just $1.99. My own children enjoy it and so do my students.

Motion Math Zoom - Motion Math - Free app (the first 6 levels) and it is highly addictive. It has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and is recommended by Moms with Apps.

Sums Stacker - Carstens Studios Inc. - this awesome app has won numerous awards for both function and design. Kids play with numbers and develop deep levels of number sense. It is sold as an iPhone app, but is compatible with the iPad and the iTouch.

Money Grab Bag

Place a variety of coins in a bag. Students pair up and each one takes a handful of coins from the bag. They count their coins and the one with the largest amount wins.

There are many variations to this game. Ask the students to identify and remove all of the quarters before counting. They could work on counting on, finding the difference between the two amounts or showing the same amount in another way.

Fraction Dominoes

You will need a set of Fraction Dominoes for this game. You can make them yourself, but it takes a while. The students will match the fractional picture with the written form. You could also extend it by having them write the ratio or percent shown on the dominoes.

Climb the Ladder

Provide students with a paper with 10 blank lines. At the bottom (under the first line) instruct them to write a target number. Depending on your level, it could be "6" or "560." Once you say, "Go!" time the students for 5 minutes. They have to climb the ladder by writing different ways to show the target number.

For example, "6" could be shown as: 5 + 1, XI, 2 x 3, 10 - 4, etc.

Math Learning Games for Critical Thinking

  • AIMS Sandbox Puzzle Corner
    There are over 100 math puzzles here that promote divergent and critical thinking. The Arrangement Puzzles are particularly engaging as they require the use of manipulatives to solve them.

  • Math Forums
    Maths Forums is out of Drexel University. Along with math games and puzzles, they also provide easy math games and teaching strategies for teachers. There is a lot of professional development available on the site.

  • Kids Kount
    This is a site out of the Netherlands. Yes, it's all in Dutch, but spend a bit of time on it and you will be able to figure out the games. A fantastic collection of critical thinking and higher order skills math games and puzzles!
  • KenKen
    The tagline is "Puzzles That Make You Smarter." This site has a special area for teachers to sign up for free and you will be sent a new set of puzzles every week (a range of levels). Target students levels and track progress - kids in Japan who play KenKen dominate the Math Olympics!

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