Explorations In Math

Fun Math Activities

Show Me!
Reinforces: Practicing addition, subtraction, or multiplication facts.
Players: Two or three
Materials: none
Play: Players hold one hand behind their back and extend anything from 0 to 5 fingers. They reveal the number of fingers at a signal. Whoever correctly states the sum, difference, or product of the fingers first, wins the round. As they get better, use the fingers on two hands. The game becomes more challenging when three play.

I’m Out!
Reinforces: Practicing basic subtraction facts
Players: Two

  • A deck of cards (all face cards removed) and
  • 15 markers (beans, paper clips, etc.) per player.

Play: Place cards between players. Each player draws a card and turns it over. Players then find the difference between the two numbers. The player with the lower number pays the difference in markers to the other player. The game ends when all cards have been played or when one player has all the markers.

EXAMPLE: Player #1 turns up a 3 and player #2 a 5. Player one pays two markers (5 – 3 = 2) to player two.

Play continues until one player is out of markers and announces “I’m out!”

Stop or Go
Reinforces: Practicing addition facts.
Players: Two or more
Materials: One six-sided die needed for each group of players.
Play: The object of the game is to be the first player to reach a designated number of points (25, 50, 100). Player #1 rolls the die. If a 1 is rolled, the player scores nothing and it’s the next player’s turn. If player #1 rolls other than a 1, the number is added to the player’s score. Player #1 continues until a 1 is rolled and play switches to player #2.

Get to 100
Reinforces: Practicing addition and mental manipulation of numbers to achieve a desired goal. (When our head teacher, Dave Gardner, first works with students, he tells them their job is to be the boss of the numbers – make numbers do what they’re supposed to do. This is good practice for that.)
Players: Groups of 2 or more.
Materials: A deck of cards (face cards removed) for each group of players.
Play: Each player is dealt 5 cards. Players are allowed to use the numbers on those cards to create any numbers they can to add up to as close to 100 as possible (either under or over). Play goes on for five rounds, and each player tries to have his or her total score equal 0. For example:

1st hand: 2, 3, 5, 5, 7
75 + 25 + 3 = 103 Score +3

2nd hand: 1, 9, 3, 2, 3
91 + 3 + 2 + 3 = 99 Score -1
Total score so far: +3 + (-1) = +2

Variation: for younger players, use only four cards to make 50.

Mental Math
Reinforces: Ability to do calculations mentally (no paper, pencil, or calculator allowed).
Players: One or more
Materials: None
Play: Tailor the level of difficulty to your child’s abilities, increasing the difficulty as your child gets better. For example, for a fourth or fifth grader:

“Start with 5. Double it. Add 7, Subtract 9. Times 3. Divided by 6. Times 4. What’s the answer.” Or: “Start with 9. Times 9. Plus 9. Divided by 9. What’s the answer?”

Please keep in mind that wrong answers are OK and nothing to scold the child for. A wrong answer tells you that your child is listening, thinking, and trying. That’s all we can ask for.