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I'm volunteering at a primary school. One of the things that we're keen on is teaching mathematics via games. I'm looking for games that people have found are good for this (either designed to teach, or as a side effect).

These kids are generally at the stage of learning adding, subtraction, multiplication and division. The school is (for want of a better word) deprived, so something that requires computer access is not appropriate. Board games would be fine, because I can bring them in.

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I'm wondering if this question would be better placed at math.stackexchange.com, but I'm not sure it fits there (their FAQ is not clear about teacher questions). –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 17 '11 at 12:51
@TorbenGB regardless of whether this is appropriate for math SE, it strikes me as potentially valid for our site (games for teaching math seems like a topic of valid interest for parents). Perhaps cross-posting would be appropriate in this case. However, it sounds like the makings of a Community Wiki. –  Beofett Jun 17 '11 at 13:11
Crossposted (and closed) at Board&Card Games –  Pat Ludwig Jun 17 '11 at 14:49
I don't remember playing many math games growing up (not in groups at least), but I do remember singing songs about math and numbers. –  Daniel Standage Jun 17 '11 at 17:04
What sort of mathematics are you trying to teach? Just simple counting or addition or something more complicated? Counting games I think are covered by nGinius, but if you want anything different can you explain more about what you are trying to achieve? –  MichaelF Jun 20 '11 at 12:24

11 Answers 11

up vote 5 down vote accepted

My favourite math games use cards:

  • cribbage (adding to 15, counting to 31, matching)
  • snap (matching)
  • war (more than, less than)
  • beat the calculator (one person has a calculator, the other doesn't, 2 cards are turned up; first person with the answer wins, calculator alternates between people)

You can also use dice. Playing Yahtzee requires counting and addition.

Sorry is a good game. For younger ones, making the association between one count and moving one square and not skipping any is important.

Pop-o-matic Trouble is another good counting game like Sorry. Kids like rolling (popping) the dice.

There are endless variations on Bingo, right from number recognition to math facts and reading number words.

You might also enjoy Mancala, one of the oldest games.

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Some of these are good, Trouble is one I've used to get my son used to counting. As well as Mouse Trap, plus he loves the building angle in the game, although any dice game is helpful for counting. –  MichaelF Jun 20 '11 at 12:23

I remember in elementary school (somewhere between grade 1-5, probably 3 for this example) we had some person from some company (or maybe government) come in and teach us division. It was very cool how she did it (well, at the time I thought so anyway).

We were in a big hall. There was some 28-30 (assume 30 for this example) of us. We were asked to divide 30 by 4. So she asked us to stand in a row with 4 people per line.

She showed us how the answer to division is 30/4 = 7 rows of people, with a remainder of 2 (since 2 people were all by themselves at the end). She tried that with different numbers (i.e. 15/8 etc.) - teaching us what a quotient and divisor is. (She'd say so "you x people are the remainder", or ask "what is the divisor?")

It wasn't so much about teaching us how to divide, but what it means when we're dividing. Visualizing it kind of made it easier (for me, anyway). I reckon that you could do similar things to teach them concepts of multiplication as well.

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I found 'Great Big Book of Children's Games' with a google book search and searched for 'math' within the book: goo.gl/e6f25

Some examples of math related children's games:

You may be able to find a number of other games with similar searches.

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Here are links to a variety of math games that I suspect would be appropriate.

http://thematicunits.theteacherscorner.net/math-games.php#activities Scroll to the Games to Create section (below the online games) for details of various math games.

http://www.superteacherworksheets.com/ Select a specific math worksheet on the left and optional games will appear for many of the skills.

Many of the games from each of these sites require some preparation, but the patterns are provided.

I commend you for your service!

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Good links to games aimed at teachers. –  DanBeale Aug 16 '11 at 10:07
Thanks Marie, I'll take a look! –  deworde Nov 7 '11 at 17:16

The Khan Academy is an excellent resource for learning and teaching math. There are two parts to KA. Excellent instructional videos and an interactive practice problems. If you sign up for an account you can track your learning progress on the dashboard which has many game features. You can earn badges, earn energy [progress] points, check leader-boards, etc.

To learn more about Khan Academy you can watch these videos: Salman Khan talk at TED 2011 Sal Khan talk at GEL 2010 and an example video lesson, Multiplication 6: Multiple Digit Numbers

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Khan Academy is fantastic right from 1+0 into university maths and sciences! The instruction has a game layer where you earn points and badges for different achievements. Also it lets you track your progress, which is rewarding in itself. And it's free! Highly recommended! –  nGinius Jun 18 '11 at 19:20
Not sure it's a GAME, though, which is really what the question is about. It's more of a scheme, and not really designed for what I need. Also, from a volunteering perspective at a school, computing access is limited. It's a good answer, but to a completely different question. –  deworde Jun 20 '11 at 9:36

There is an ancient Windows game called XFIGURE. You create 'crossword' puzzles, where the clues are simple sums, and the answers are digits.

You can configure the software to include different types of calculation - addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and some other stuff. (How many seconds in 2 minutes? How many inches in 4 feet?)

Best of all, you can then print the puzzle and clues out.

Here's a link: http://www.sphipps.com/


It works well with Wine.

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Easier Sudoku puzzles might work, there are many generators around. Sudoku Kingdom http://www.sudokukingdom.com/very-easy-sudoku.php is one of them.

Then there's Colorku http://colorku.com/ but you probably can make your own version with a laminated piece of paper and some colored tokens or construction paper dots.

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One thing I'm thinking of trying is a stripped down variant on Dungeons and Dragons. Lots of simple, repetitive addition and substraction, and multiplication and division when it comes to "how many turns will it take to get there, beat them, escape from that"

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I would have to agree that Math Blaster is a quality online math games for kids. I let my kids play and I've notice some improvements in their basic arithmetic skills. Khans academy is good also but more for older kids or teens.

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We have a couple that haven't been mentioned here that have been fun and useful for our son:


Nubble (previously called NumberQuest)

Otherwise, a perusal of the Math and Number categories at BoardGameGeek would be a good start.

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Clumsy Thief is a great game for 3rd-4th grade. It's a hilarious math game that kids seem to play over and over. I found it helpful for reinforcing simple double digit addition.

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