If you’re struggling to create a love for math in your home or classroom, you’re not alone. Math has no legendary stories of war heroes and princesses like history; no fun, explosive experiments like science; and no dancing or creative outlets like music and art. For many students, it’s the hardest subject to appreciate. In an attempt to soothe mathematics woes, we’ve created this list of the best math games for kids to get them up and moving, increase understanding, and, hopefully, create a passion for numbers!
Taking a Break With Adventures From Scratch
When the weekend comes, take a break from these math games for kids, and gather your crew for an adventure! Our scratch-off adventure catalog is packed with more than 50 spontaneous activities crafted for high-level fun and intentional family time. It’s easy to get going. Just grab a copy of Adventures From Scratch: Family Edition, and consult the key for a category that sounds fun. Scratch off an adventure, and commit to finishing it. We’ve got the rest covered! We’ve even given you space to document your adventures and witty conversation starters to keep the conversation flowing. What are you waiting for?
Fun Math Games for Kids
These cool math games will help you get creative with learning in your surroundings. Use the outdoor areas at your disposal. Get kids up and moving, and keep them interested by integrating other subjects. Word problems can easily double as a great work of fiction. Number lines are transformed in an instant into long jump pits, and skip counting is a breeze with a bean bag toss. While there are many online math learning games out there (and they’re awesome), we’ll primarily stick to real-world games where kids can use kinetic memory to help them learn and remember those pesky math skills.
1. Don’t Get Twisted
This math activity is great for kids in 1st grade through 6th grade. Start with the classic game of Twister. Number each circle with a random integer. Create math problems appropriate for your current curriculum, and spin the dial to predict the move.
Let’s say you spin a right foot (ignore the color). You’d pull out your next flash card and announce the equation—“Right foot to 8 – 5.” The children will solve the math problem and move their right foot to the nearest 3. Keep spinning and solving until only one remains on their feet.
2. Skip Counting Beans
Number several plastic tubs with the intervals you want to practice today. If you’re working on skip counting by 10, you would make a bucket for 10, 20, 30, 40, etc. Each bucket can be labeled on all four sides, too, so when you finish the tens, turn the buckets around to the other side, and skip count by fives, two, or whatever you choose.
Give each child 5–6 bean bags, and have them skip count by throwing the bean bags into the appropriate bucket. Bean bag tosses can be easily adapted for numerous math games. You can adjust them for multiplication games, addition and subtraction, and much more.
3. Sand Pit Jump
Work on measuring and reading a tape measure while you get out some energy! Find a dirt spot on the playground, or borrow the sand pit on the school track. Have each child run and jump as far as they can. Then, with the help of their partner, they will stretch out a tape measure and see how far they hopped! Write down the results, and once everyone has made their jump, add them all together, and see how much ground the class covered as a whole. You can also work on fractions with this method if you get precise with your measurements!
4. Hidden Treasure Hunt
Use fun objects like frisbees, whoopie cushions, or something similar. Write random numbers on each item, and hide them around the classroom or on the playground. Send the children out to hunt for the hidden number. The first two children to find a number will bring the items back and build an equation in front of you. The next two to arrive will do the same. As children bring in their treasure, they will either solve one of the existing equations if they hold the answer, or they will start another one. This math activity works well for first grade through 4th grade, as you can use it for addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division.
5. Math Matching Game
Take a regular deck of playing cards, and remove all face cards and jokers, leaving only the numbers. Spread them out face down on the floor, and have the children gather around in groups of 6–8. Each child will take a turn and go clockwise around the circle. You’ll write a math problem on the board or announce it out loud. The child will turn over two cards. If one of the cards is the answer to your equation, they’ll take the card and turn the other back over. If neither is the answer, they’ll turn both back over. Then it’s time to go to the next equation and the next child. The aim of the game is to remember where the numbered cards are (like old-school Memory). The child in each group with the most cards at the end of the game can get a small prize!
6. Place Value Boogie
Practice those ten bases and your dance moves too with an active kids math game that the dancers in your crew will love! This one takes a little more preparation. You’ll need to make laminated dance mats with large numbers in this pattern:
Flash an equation on a screen, or write it on the board. The answer should be between 10 and 99. The dancers will stomp their left foot on the ten base and their right foot on the one. For instance, if we make it a subtraction game, you’d flash up 60 – 26. The kids would solve the equation, placing their left foot on the 3 and their right foot on the 4. This game focuses on quick problem-solving in a super fun way!
7. Water Gun Wages
If you teach 5th grade or above, work on word problems by integrating some economic facts. Bring forward five children, and line them up side by side. Give each a water gun. Set up paper targets, frisbees, balloons, or something similar with the answers to your equations. Then, make your word problems based on accounting and wages. You may need to give them some scratch paper and a pencil.
“You make $35/hour, and you work 40 hours this week. The government takes $420 for taxes. How much is your paycheck going to be?”
For older children, throw in a percentage problem. Instead of telling them it’s $420, tell them that the government takes 30%, and have them calculate from there. When they get the answer, they’ll grab their gun and shoot the target labeled with the right answer.
8. Squirt Gun Counting Game
Squirt guns are also a great learning tool for pre-K students. Line up a few balloons on the ground. You can label them, if you like, with the numbers 1 through 10. Have the children count by squirting each balloon and counting it out loud. Once they know their numbers, transition to having them squirt only three balloons or only five balloons. Use your imagination with this one. Water guns are fun for any grade level, and they can be used to reinforce a massive array of math concepts!
9. Spatial Graphing
Turn your classroom into a giant scavenger hunt that focuses on graphing and measurement conversion. Make a two-dimensional scale model of the classroom on a sheet of paper. If your class is 20 feet by 30 feet, make your rectangle 20 inches by 30 inches. You’ll need a large roll of paper to make your models. Pair off your kids, and give each team a model and a tape measure. You could also do one model and complete the activity as a class. You’ll also need a bucket or bag filled with stationary classroom items written on strips of paper.
Start in one corner of the room, and draw a random strip from the bag. Have the children measure the distance to the object you’ve drawn, convert the measurement to inches, and plot it on their grid. For most objects, they will need to make two to three measurements from the walls to find their exact placement. It’s a lesson in conversions but also in spatial awareness and practical math application.
10. Hot Potato Computation
All you need for this one is a ball, rubber chicken, or bean bag. Develop a list of math facts that fit your current curriculum. Have the children form a circle, and then choose a child to go first. Present them with a math fact, and have them pass the ball to the person on their left. The kids will pass the ball clockwise, and the first child has until the ball gets all the way around the circle and back to them to solve the problem. If they solve it in time, they get to choose the next person to play. If not, you can choose. This works great for 3rd grade and above. Since we’re looking for speed here, Hot Potato Computation pairs well with mental math units!
11. Human Checker Calculations
Use some painter’s tape to turn any open space into a giant checkerboard. Line up eight students, and present them with a math problem. The strategy is to move across the checkerboard and get to the other side before all the other classmates. The trick is that they must make at least one horizontal move, and they can’t land on a square where a friend is already standing.
“Jake, your equation is 10 divided by 2.” Jake must move five spaces, and one of those must be horizontal. He can move four ahead and one to the left or three ahead and two to the right. As each child moves, the game becomes harder as the squares get filled with human checkers. If they have nowhere to go, they’ll have to go backward.
This giant board game works well if you’re teaching children of different grade levels, for instance as a homeschool or cooperative teacher. You can tailor the math problems to each child’s current grade level and personal ability.
12. Roll the Dice
Like squirt guns and bean bags, a set of dice can be used for a multitude of educational games. Older kids like 101 and Done. It’s easy to play, offers a little friendly competition, and is the perfect way to end class.
Divide your kids into two or three groups, and give each a pen and paper. They will roll the dice and add the result to try to reach 101 first. The catch is that they have a choice—use the number they rolled at face value or multiply it by ten. They must get to 101 without going over.
13. Mental Math Shopping Trip
Gather canned goods or packaged meals, and look up the price for each item in your Walmart or favorite store app. Then, set up the goods at the front of your classroom. Give each child some monopoly money, or just tell them they have $25 to spend. They must go on a shopping spree, filling their basket with items. The goal is to get as close to $25 as they can without going over. They must also do all the addition and keep a running tally in their head.
14. All About the Angles
Work on basic trigonometry by estimating the height of each student using angles and a laser light! Measure 20 feet from a blank space on your wall, and place a tape line with a dot in the center. Have a student stand against the wall, and mark his or her height with a pencil. Have two other students use a protractor and a laser pen light to find the angle at which the light hits the height marking. Using the distance from the wall and the angle, students should be able to estimate their classmate’s height.
Let’s say your laser angle measures 20 degrees. You now have a scalene triangle with a 90-degree angle and a 20-degree angle. The student soon figures out that the third angle is 70 degrees (though they don’t really need to). Knowing the laser angle and the adjacent length (20 feet), they can use the tan rule to estimate the first student’s height.
For younger learners who aren’t ready for trig, forget the laser and angles. Just document the student’s height, and then use the Pythagorean theorem to estimate the hypotenuse.
15. Math Facts Rally
To practice multiplication tables, use this fast-paced racing game. Line students up in two teams at the back of the class. Construct two large tables with five rows and five columns of squares (or 8×8 or 12×12). Hang them at the other end of the room.
The first child from each team will run to the front of the class and use the grid to solve math problems, writing the answer in the correct square. For instance, in the square where row 2 and column 5 meet, the child would write the number 10. They can choose whichever square they want. They will run back to their team, handing the marker to the next child in line. The first team to correctly fill in the entire table without error is declared the winner. Make it easier by numbering the rows and columns and more difficult by leaving them blank. This one is appropriate for addition or multiplications, 2nd grade through 6th grade.
Alternative Division Game: The race can be altered by labeling the rows and columns with larger numbers and instructing the children to divide the row number by the intersecting column number. They will then write the answer in the corresponding square. Instead of your rows numbering 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, they would number 5, 10, 20, etc.
16. Virtual Games with Math Playground
If your child is a solitary learner or you need a quiet activity for class, use the numerous math games from Math Playground. Their website has an assortment of vibrant and educational games that they can access from their tablets. It explores all grade levels and an abundance of math facts, allowing children to hop back and forth from your current curriculum to review. It will even allow your more advanced students to hop ahead if they need to.
17. Warring Numbers
Use a standard deck of cards to play a twist on the classic game of War. This is a great math game for kids because it is so adaptable to their grade level. Each child will play two cards. They will either add the numbers, subtract the numbers, multiply, or divide the numbers, depending on your instructions. Aces are worth 1. Number cards are at face value. Jack is worth 11, the queen is worth 12, and the King is worth 13. The person whose two cards produce the highest value wins all four cards. If you really want to make it challenging, you can designate one suit or color to be negative integers.
18. Slap Math
Separate your class into groups of three, and give one deck of cards to each group. One child will be the dealer, and the other two children will be the players. You will call out a math equation, and the dealer will start flipping over cards one by one onto a pile. When the card with the correct answer lands, the players will race to slap it! The winner becomes the dealer, and the game goes on. If you want to avoid the hassle of hurting fingers and fighting, you can also pick a fun word like “gesundheit!” for the children to yell when they see the correct card instead of slapping.
Making Math Fun
Learning math can be so much more fun than memorizing terms and filling out worksheets. Use these 18 math games for kids to spice things up and keep them on their feet. While using their whole body to learn, many children are able to overcome their math fears and decrease their tendency to overthink and become frustrated. While you can’t have them running all over class or the playground every day, tossing in a few of these games per week can really make a difference in the speed at which your students gain a practical understanding of the concepts.
For more educational games, check out our list of “The Best Science Games for Kids!” We’ve got fun experiments, quiet thinking games, and DIY crafts that make learning science a breeze!
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